EARTH Thailand

Nationwide inspections over e-waste disposal fears

The Nation 28 May 2018 | PRATCH RUJIVANAROM

Environmentalists blame govt for causing toxic problem by undermining international agreement.

A NATIONWIDE INSPECTION of electronic waste recycling plants has been launched to battle the smuggling of hazardous e-waste into the country and ensure proper disposal operations.

The Industry Ministry yesterday responded to last week’s investigation of an e-waste smuggling network centred on WMD Thai Recycling Co Ltd that found illegal importing of electronic parts, and environmental impacts from the improper recycling and disposal of hazardous waste.

The Ministry ordered local Provincial Industry Offices to inspect all electronic-waste recycling plants in their areas to ensure the factory operations are in line with laws and regulations.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha also threw his full support behind the nationwide inspection for wrongdoing in the electronic waste recycling business. He stressed on the urgency of strict law enforcement and improvement of business operations to ensure adherence to legal requirements.

Industry Ministry permanent secretary Pasu Loharjun said he had already ordered the Industrial Works Department to carry out inspections at seven factories licensed to import hazardous waste as per the Basel Convention on transboundary disposal, as well as at electronic waste recycling plants across the country. The department was ordered to search for violations of laws and ensure their proper enforcement.

“Currently, there are a total of 1,761 factories permitted to manage electronic waste in Thailand, 539 of which are electronic waste recycling plants, while 1,222 plants are disposing of operating unused electronic waste by land-filling or incinerating it,” Pasu said.

“Most of these plants are situate in Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao.”

Pasu said local Provincial Industry Offices have been told to cooperate with relevant agencies in the local area to conduct searches and inspections of e-waste recycling plants. If they find violations of laws, the local industry office has a duty to take legal action against the business owners.

Local industry offices are also required to cooperate with the Industrial Works Department to set up a plan for the close regulation of electronic waste recycling businesses, he said, in order to prevent electronic waste smuggling problems and environmental impacts from the hazardous waste disposal in the future.

Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand director Penchom Saetang said the country’s environmental problems of poor and careless hazardous waste management stemmed from poor government policies and a lack of law enforcement to ensure compliance by e-waste recyclers.

“The problem of WMD Thai Recycling is not a new one. Our organisation has always been contacted by local people seeking help responding to the environmental impacts from hazardous waste recycling plants in their locality,” Penchom said.

“This is all because of the government’s policies to support investment in electronic waste recycling businesses in Thailand, which allows construction of hazardous waste management plants and the legal import of electronic waste to the country for recycling and disposing.”

Thailand has ratified the Basel Convention, which prohibits the transnational movement of hazardous waste. Despite that, the government – sometimes acting through free-trade agreements – has undermined the convention, using legal techniques to bypass the prohibition and instead authorise hazardous waste import to the country, she said.

Also, relevant agencies tasked with preventing environmental impacts from electronic waste recycling businesses have not properly performed their duties, she said.

The agencies have allowed the operators of many waste management plants to reduce their operation costs by disposing of hazardous waste through improper and careless methods, and that has contributed to serious environmental impacts and risked the health of local people.

Penchom called for the government to revise its polices on hazardous waste. Related agencies must also prioritise the interests of local people and strictly enforce the law when companies violated it, she said.