Sri Lanka’s imported plastic problem

Wednesday, 5 July 2023 00:00 –      – 11

The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA), which was signed in January 2018 and came into effect in May 2018, recently celebrated five years of existence. It is appropriate for relevant government agencies to provide an overview of the significant trade and economic effects of the FTA during the period and any efforts made by the government to rewrite the agreement’s provisions that are unfavourable to Sri Lanka as the SLSFTA approaches its fifth anniversary of implementation.

Due to the fact that Sri Lanka is actively negotiating free trade agreements with several other nations, including China, India, and Thailand, this is particularly crucial in terms of trade policy.

However, Sri Lanka has promised to allow the import and processing of rubbish and waste from Singapore. The SLFTA and the proposed tariff liberalisation will allow Sri Lanka to import dangerous goods such rubbish, medical waste, nuclear waste, and chemical waste. Those people and organisations that brought up this issue said that since waste products are covered by the agreement, such goods may be thrown into the nation.

Developed nations occasionally export “recyclable waste” to other countries for recycling, whether legally or illegally. This is due to the fact that recycling is a messy and labour-intensive business. For instance, before a PET bottle could be recycled, it would need to be washed and the top and label removed. It is a labour-intensive procedure as a result. Large amounts of hazardous or toxic trash are frequently combined with clean garbage. It then turns into a dangerous enterprise. Workers are exposed to harmful waste during the cleaning procedure, which releases it into the neighbourhood.

Nearly 60% of the plastic trash produced worldwide was imported by China, the largest garbage importer in the world. Over many years, there was a rising popular backlash against the import of foreign trash. China banned the importation of 24 different forms of trash in 2017 and informed the WTO as a result, due to global trends and the import of plastic garbage in particular.

When a product’s import is prohibited in one country, it will often be diverted to another country in international trade. After China’s prohibition, Thailand, Vietnam, and other nations in the area, which had historically imported garbage for reprocessing, began to impose import restrictions on waste goods as a result of increased levels of plastic waste.

Singapore is one of the countries that produce the most plastic garbage per person in the world, and this material is either exported or burned. Ash from incineration is transported to a landfill on a man-made island, which is likewise rapidly filling up. Additionally, even under regulated circumstances, the combustion of plastic trash damages the ecosystem. Singapore is highly concerned about preserving its air quality, thus exporting garbage, which is far more affordable than recycling, was considered.

When the SLSFTA was being negotiated, the global rubbish trade problem was at its worst. The Sri Lankan negotiator responded to the problem by seeing it as a chance to embrace plastic garbage at the expense of the health and safety of the general populace. Before agreeing to any tariff line, trade negotiators are supposed to review trade statistics. Despite this, the government did little to prevent Sri Lanka from turning into a developed nation’s rubbish dump and instead published a few articles in the media that included false information. Even after the government put a restriction on the importation of hundreds of goods, trash products like plastic waste were left off of that list, and Sri Lanka still imports thousands of tons of plastic garbage every year, which seems to exacerbate the country’s plastic problem.