EARTH Thailand

Factory to be closed over e-waste

Bangkok Post 10 June 2018 | Sutthiwit Chayutworakan & Apinya Wipatayotin

Plant suspected of smuggling scrap

Samut Prakan: A garbage factory where scrap electronics were allegedly smuggled from abroad for recycling will be closed by authorities amid fears of pollution spreading to nearby waterways.

The company, based in Soi Kaeo Faifa in Bang Bo district, Samut Prakan, had permission to sort ordinary garbage for recycling, but lacked a licence for handling electronic waste, according to the latest police investigation on the growing illegal e-waste disposal issue.

"Officials will close the factory immediately due to its clear wrongdoing," deputy national police chief Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta said yesterday.

His inspection of the 2-rai factory compound produced several examples of hazardous electronic waste, including computer parts, electrical appliances and batteries.

Rainfall during yesterday's operation drew attention to the potential of water pollution as rain beat down on piles of garbage on site.

Pol Gen Wirachai said the company appeared to lack proper wastewater treatment facilities as the "garbage water" spread over the compound, and further flowed into public waters.

The factory could face additional charges beside the three counts of wrongdoing concerning hazardous waste management issued so far, he said.

Police have charged company executive Sunisa Limwanit with illegally possessing type-3 hazardous substances, running an e-waste recycling facility without permission and illegally importing garbage.

According to investigators, the company colluded with a gang to smuggle scrap electronics into Thailand to "launder" it and make the scrap appear as if it was domestic waste.

The investigators also found the firm spent several million baht per month purchasing the garbage, Pol Gen Wirachai said.

Ms Sunisa said her company only buys scrap electronics domestically but admitted she lacked a licence to recycle it.

Pol Gen Wirachai said the investigators are looking into whether local officials ignored their supervisory duties as they suspect Ms Sunisa's factory was set up in an area previously reserved for farming purposes.

The government has recently voiced its intent to get tough on illegal electronic waste disposal after several tonnes of discarded electronics were found in shipping containers in Chon Buri's Laem Chabang port last month. According to the Disease Control Department, many provinces are struggling to deal with excessive e-waste.

Other affected provinces include Kalasin and Lampang. In the former, an average of 1,200 tonnes of e-waste has been measured per month, while in the latter, a CD-recycling factory was found to have expanded its business practices without permission.

As it expanded its probe yesterday, Pol Gen Wirachai's team also found a foam-making factory located near Ms Sunisa's firm emitting what he believed to be sulphur dioxide, a toxic gas. An initial inspection found the factory had not installed air filters as required by law, he said.

In another story, the Pollution Control Department found that up to 53% of 224 "pollution sources" along the Mae Kha canal in Chiang Mai failed to meet wastewater treatment standards.

"Officials told them to repair their wastewater treatment facilities within a given deadline," said PCD chief Sunee Piyapanpong.