EARTH Thailand

Push on to block toxic e-wastes


With another 100,000 tonnes set to enter the country this year, officials determined to amend regulations.

TOP government officials have pledged to stop more than 100,000 tonnes of electronic and other hazardous wastes from entering the country later this year, as they prepare to amend regulations to tightly manage the import of recycled and used items.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment General Surasak Kanchanarat said both urgent and long-term measures would be adopted to tackle the worsening consequences of an earlier bid to promote the recycling industry in Thailand.

This year, more than 100,000 tonnes of these wastes are expected to arrive in the country so authorities are scrambling to slam the brakes on the undesirable imports. 

Surasak admitted that some importers have exploited loopholes in the current regulations and also made false declarations on the items imported, resulting in imports of massive amounts of electronic and other hazardous wastes into the country.

In addition, authorities will investigate if some Customs and other officials have abused their power to aid importers, thus making it possible for these wastes to enter the country.

Regarding the immediate task, he said the ministry and law enforcement officials would ensure that shipments of these wastes cannot enter the country as the government’s first duty is to prevent public health problems caused by improper disposal of toxic wastes.

According to police, there are now seven companies in Thailand that are properly licensed to import leftover electronic goods with a 2017-18 quota of more than 200,000 tonnes. Imports last year totalled 60,000 tonnes. More than 100,000 tonnes are expected later this year.

The latest round of warehouse and factory inspections found that dozens of sites do not have valid licences to process these items but they appear to be sub-contractors working for those seven licensed companies.

Surasak yesterday attended a multi-agency meeting on tackling this issue to ensure that responsible authorities took action and closed the loopholes.

Penchom Sae Tang of Burana Nivej Foundation said residents in seven provinces, including Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chon Buri where the government has been promoting the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) mega-investment programme, have filed complaints with authorities regarding the growing quantities of e-wastes as well as toxic plastic and chemical wastes.

Since 2000, she said, the government has issued ministerial regulations to exempt some importers from being subjected to the legislation on hazardous goods. As a result, importers have more leeway to bring in raw materials and other items for their production process while some used electrical appliances and electronic goods are also exempted from these rules.

These exemptions have become the loopholes exploited by certain importers, including a number of waste treatment businesses in Chachoengsao province where on May 22 police found irregularities during a crackdown.

In addition, the Thai government has entered into an agreement with 14 countries to facilitate recycling sector, which covers thousands of items that are also exempted from import duties. 

In addition, the National Council for Peace and Order had earlier issued an order granting exemptions to these businesses.

As a result, the government has been urged to revoke the special order on exemptions while imposing a ban on all electronic wastes as well as used items made of plastic, certain textiles and other raw materials. 

Jon Naowaopas, a leader of Chachoengsao’s environmental protection network, said the province had seen a growing number of waste management and used-cargo factories following exemptions granted by the NCPO order, resulting in public health hazards and environmental problems.