EARTH Thailand

Surasak to head new panel policing waste imports

Bangkok Post 22 June 2018 | Lamonphet Apisitniran & Apinya Wipatayotin

A new committee led by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Kanjanarat will take over from the Industry Ministry's Department of Industrial Works (DIW), in allowing the import of plastic and electronic waste.

Any imports of hazardous waste will need permission on a case-by-case basis as the DIW will cancel all licences for electronic and plastic waste imports next week, the department's director-general Mongkol Pruekwatana said Thursday.

The Surasak-led committee was appointed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to ensure comprehensive and integrated management of electronic waste, he said.

Gen Surasak said state agencies will check whether waste imported earlier was imported legally or not. In case existing laws do not cover all aspects, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief's special Section 44 order might be imposed.

"We will no longer allow the import of anything not useful and which would become a burden for Thailand. For example, we have to send mercury for treatment in Switzerland and send old mobiles to Singapore which has proper factories with the capacity to process them," he said.

Out of seven companies licensed to import hazardous waste, five were found recently to have breached regulations. The two others are Fuji Xerox Eco Manufacturing Co, Ltd and Ming Engineering (Thailand) Co, Ltd.

Mr Mongkol said: "The government will consider all import requests case by case. Even if law-abiding Fuji Xerox Eco Manufacturing Co wants to import waste from overseas, it must send a request to the committee."

At present, Thailand produces 400,000 tonnes of electronics waste per year and imported about 53,000 tonnes last year. The country also produced about 2 million tonnes of plastic waste while also importing about 150,000 tonnes during the same period.

Meanwhile, a group of local networks from eight provinces opposed to waste segregating and recycling plants located near their communities, along with the Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (Earth) group called for quick government action to deal with the problem of hazardous waste.

Earth director, Penchome Sae-Tang, said that some law amendments are producing terrible results that are critically affecting communities and the environment.

He cited regulations which ease requirements on business in so-called special economic zones. Waste management plants are likely to spring up to serve them, which could worsen the problem.

According to the DIW, it found that the number of plants for waste segregation and recycling has risen dramatically from five and 43 plants respectively in 2014, to 88 and 111 last year.

The surge in the number of waste management plants in the country also corresponds with the increasing amount of hazardous waste, it said.