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Shipping lines urged to stop all plastic waste exports

Green groups issue call as they note increased waste plastic exports to non-OECD countries, including Indonesia, India and Vietnam from the EU, UK, Japan and Canada

Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk, MSC, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Evergreen and Cosco have been cited among the largest shippers of plastic waste

GREEN groups have called on shipping lines to completely stop plastic waste exports as they cause environmental and social harm to receiving countries.

They said that while restrictions existed, they were not being respected and the “reality is that exporters can load virtually anything in a container and ship it to another country to a willing, complicit importer”.

“Unless every container is fully inspected, there is no way to monitor illegal shipments,” said Jan Dell, founder of California-based non-governmental organisation Last Beach Cleanup.

The call to outlaw plastic waste shipments comes following CMA CGM chairman and chief executive Rodolphe Saadé’s recent announcement that the company would stop carrying plastic waste on its ships from June. He made the announcement during the One Ocean Summit organised by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ms Dell said plastic waste shipments should end completely.

“We are calling for a full stop to plastic waste exports because countries must take responsibility for their own waste,” she said.  “In addition to CMA CGM, I believe that Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk (including Hamburg Sud) are the largest shippers of plastic waste to Asia.”

Hyundai Merchant Marine, Evergreen and Cosco have also been cited as significant plastic waste shippers.

Plastic Pollution Coalition co-founder and chief executive Dianna Cohen said her group welcomed CMA CGM’s move.

“We join our allies at The Last Beach Cleanup, Basel Action Network, and many others in calling on other major shipping companies to follow CMA CGM’s lead,” she said, adding it was “unacceptable to ship plastic pollution across the world’s oceans and thereby shift the burden to other countries where it harms the health of communities and the environment”.

Jim Puckett, executive director of Washington-based Basel Action Network, said the Netherlands and Germany were among the largest exporters of plastic waste to Asia from the EU.

“In particular, Netherlands increased plastic waste exports to Asia in 2021. We believe that while other countries may be more respectful of the new Basel Plastic Waste Amendments, Netherlands is not so respectful,” he said.  

Data compiled by his group showed that Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia were among countries which received the largest volumes of plastic waste in 2021. It did not provide any country breakdown of plastic waste emanating from EU nations.

In November 2021, more than 15m kg of plastic waste was shipped to Malaysia from Japan, while Indonesia received nearly 12m kg of similar waste from the EU. On the same month, Vietnam took in nearly 15m kg of plastic waste from Japan.

While waste cargoes are low paying, they help shipping lines fill up vessels on backhaul voyages from countries in the West.

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