EARTH Thailand

Groups urge 2nd largest shipping company to stop shipping plastic waste

PRESS RELEASE 29 June 2022

Bangkok, Thailand –  In conjunction with the 2022 UN Ocean Conference which kicked off yesterday with an interactive dialogue on addressing marine pollution, Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH) joined groups from around the world calling for Danish shipping company A.P. Moller - Maersk to emulate CMA CGM and stop shipping plastic waste from rich countries to weaker economies.

In February this year, during the One Ocean Summit in France, France-based CMA CGM Group announced that they would no longer be transporting any plastic waste aboard their ships effective 1 June 2022.

Leading the pack

The Group said the decision was made "heeding the urgent calls made by certain NGOs" in February 2021 to "prevent this type of waste from being exported to destinations where sorting, recycling or recovery cannot be assured”, potentially ending up in the oceans and causing “irreversible damage to marine ecosystems, fauna and flora”. The UN estimates that more than 800 species are harmed by marine debris, 80 percent of which is plastic. 

In 2021, 3.75 million tonnes of plastic waste were shipped from the top ten plastic waste exporting countries including US, Japan, Germany, UK, and the Netherlands, which is equivalent to 7.13 tonnes per minute. 

CMA CGM admitted to shipping approximately 50,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of plastic waste from developed countries to Southeast Asia that year, sending 454,000 tonnes of foreign plastic waste to countries that already have high rates of domestic waste mismanagement.

Corporate responsibility

Governments have attempted to institute bans on plastic waste imports, only to rescind the bans due to industry pressure. Traders were found circumventing import restrictions by labelling plastic scrap as another type of plastic, or hiding mixed plastic scrap behind clean homogenous plastic waste. 

In May 2019, 187 countries came together at the Basel Convention meetings and passed the Plastic Waste Amendments, but certain parties have seemingly violated the terms, while criminals continue to exploit flawed plastic waste export systems.

Where the government falters, businesses, particularly industry giants, have a duty to step up.

“Denmark has been appointed as co-facilitators for the UN Ocean Conference political declaration. This is an opportune moment for Maersk to support the government, burnish their sustainability credentials, and join CMA CGM as leaders in the fight against marine plastic pollution,” said Anne Aittomaki, Strategic Director of Plastic Change, a Danish NGO. “Like how Maersk was the first to ban the transport of shark fins.”

“Maersk invests in ocean clean-ups but remedial actions like that are too little, too late. The global plastic waste trade facilitates the leakage of plastics into the ocean. We need to plug that leak now,” Pui Yi Wong from the Break Free From Plastic movement added.

North-South pressure

This renewed pressure on shipping lines is led by groups in both the Global North and Global South. Malaysian Stop Waste Trade Coalition submitted a letter to Maersk today, demanding transparency in the volume of plastic waste being shipped to their country. Groups in the Philippines plan to follow suit. 

“Malaysia became the world’s top destination for plastic waste exports in 2018, importing close to 800,000 tonnes. What is a country 30 times smaller than the US supposed to do with all that waste?” exclaimed Farhan Nasa from Malaysia. “Early this month, a huge pile of imported waste from 2018-2019 was set on fire. We are still suffering from the consequences of the plastic waste shipped and dumped here.”

“The Malaysian government has put in place stringent regulations to control the plastic waste trade, but illegal plastic waste shipments and illegal recycling continue to be a problem. The shipping companies can play a strong role in preventing these wastes from the Global North from polluting our country,” stated Mageswari Sangaralingam of Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

Their calls support a parallel campaign by Plastic Change in Denmark, who have been pressuring Maersk to stop shipping plastic waste since 2021. 

15 organisations from three exporting countries (US, UK, and Denmark), six importing countries (Turkey, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand), and two networks (Europe and global) jointly launched an online petition on World Ocean Day on 8 June 2022, demanding that Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, Hamburg Sud, COSCO, Orient Shipping, and Dole Ocean Cargo stop shipping plastic waste.

But this week at the UN Ocean Conference, all eyes are on sustainability leader Maersk. The NGOs urge Maersk to:

● No longer allow shipments of plastic waste of any kind from rich to weaker economies, such as from OECD to non-OECD countries (including Malaysia), Turkey, and Mexico. 

● Prepare a corporate policy commitment and method of verification to ensure traceability of plastic waste supply chains shipped by the company.

● Increase transparency and accountability in plastic waste supply chains by revealing the volumes of plastic wastes shipped, countries of origin, destination countries, shipping routes, and other information to enable monitoring of plastic waste shipments by all parties.

● Put into practice their commitment to Ocean Health: “As citizens of the oceans, we will contribute to protecting the health of the oceans and continuously reduce our own impacts.”, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.


To read the online petition calling for shipping lines to stop shipping plastic waste and the 15 supporting organisations:

The organisations here are involved in an official virtual side event at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference on 28 June 2022, 1pm GMT+1, discussing issues related to the plastic waste trade. Video of side event:

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For further enquiries, contact: 

- Punyathorn Jeungsmarn, Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH): 

- Anne Aittomaki, Plastic Change: + 45 26142070

- Pui Yi Wong, Break Free From Plastic - Asia-Pacific: +6017-5006747