Thailand to ban e-waste, plastic imports

Bangkok: The Thai government will ban imports of electronic and plastic waste following reports of massive piles of scrap are turning the country it into the "world's garbage bin," local media reports say.

"We need to prioritise good environment and the health of our citizens over industrial development," Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Kanchanarat told local newspaper The Nation.

 Thai National Deputy Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta, centre with white gloves, law-enforcement officers and journalists walks past a pile of mobile batteries during a raid in Bangkok on Thursday.  Photo: AP

Thai National Deputy Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta, centre with white gloves, law-enforcement officers and journalists walks past a pile of mobile batteries during a raid in Bangkok on Thursday.

Photo: AP

Surasak's remarks came after media reported in late May on e-waste - much of which contains potentially harmful elements such as lead and cadmium - turning up in Thailand from many parts of the world, including the US, the European Union, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

Most of the new e-waste was imported illegally, as Thai factories saw a new way of making profits after China, the world's biggest importer of waste, stopped accepting 24 types of foreign waste last year, including from Australia.

 A dump in Mae Sot, north-west Thailand where locals sift through rubbish looking for plastics they can recycle.  Photo: Brendan Esposito

A dump in Mae Sot, north-west Thailand where locals sift through rubbish looking for plastics they can recycle.

Photo: Brendan Esposito

Up to 411 kinds of e-waste will be banned without a specific timeline set, pending the issuance of a new regulation, while all plastic waste imports will be banned in the next two years, Surasak said.

"We need to ensure that domestic and plastic waste is used by the recycling industry first, before we import these materials from other countries," he added.

Thailand is one of the world's top contributors of ocean waste - half of which is plastic, according to Greenpeace.

DPA