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Hazardous plastic scrap imports soar fivefold in January-July

Imports of hazardous plastic scrap surged more than fivefold to 13,600 tonnes during the past seven months in a blatant violation of import policy, posing serious risks to environment and human health, industry sources said on Thursday.

The sources said approximately 2,200 tonnes of such scraps made inroads into the country during the corresponding period a year ago. Sources said plastic scrap shipments are allowed to import without valid documents and without following the import policy order conditions “in letter and spirit”.

Pre-shipment inspection certificates, in several cases, are not in accordance with the requirements of Basel Convention Ban Amendment, an international treaty that bans movement of toxic waste from developed to developing countries.

They alleged that inspection agencies are issuing pre-shipment certificates on the basis of visual inspection instead of chemical tests and third party validation as required by the convention.

Sources said Import Policy 2013 stipulates testing of consignments by government-certified laboratories, particularly Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR).

Under the regulatory mechanism, exporting companies have to certify that the consignment being exported to Pakistan doesn’t contain any hazardous substance as defined in the Basel Convention. Customs authorities can also randomly get a consignment tested by PCSIR or any other government certified laboratory.

Sources, however, said plastic scrap is being imported by changing the item description as polyvinyl chlorid recycled flakes and granules.  Scrap is also crushed in different forms of powder, granules and flakes, which is mis-declaration under the customs laws.

Sources, however, alleged that hazardous plastic scrap is not being excluded due to the negligent behaviour of custom authorities, and environmental protection agencies.  Daily usage products of hazardous plastic scrap, which are relatively cheap, are manufactured and used by the people.

Unabated import of hazardous plastic scrap mainly due to lack of proper implementation of laws has increasingly become a source of concern for environmentalists.  Industry experts said lax regulation nullifies the import policy initiated by the ministry of commerce following an order passed by the Lahore High Court in 2015. Later on, the policy was briefly suspended and after the court proceedings, it was reinstated by the Islamabad High Court.

The import policy is comprehensive and provides clear guidelines about effective regulation of hazardous plastic imports.  Industry officials said the policy has been notified in the best interest of the country and to save the people from using hazardous plastic scrap, which can cause deadly infections and diseases.

The basic aim of the policy is to regulate the import of plastic scrap by excluding the hazardous plastic scrap. The policy initiative taken by the ministries of commerce and climate change and judiciary is seen as a milestone for restricting import of such shipments.

However, the policy intervention remains just a piece of paper as long as proper implementation is not ensured, sources said. The initiative has become useless because of the permissive enforcement by the relevant authorities, specifically customs and environmental protection agencies, they added.

Under the policy, environmental protection agencies (EPA) have also given a responsibility to give the environmental approval to the manufacturers/recyclers, ensuring that all recyclers are complying with EPA Act and they are fully equipped to save environment. Provincial environmental protection agencies also bear responsibilities to protect environment from hazardous recycled items.

Hasan, Munawar. Hazardous plastic scrap imports soar fivefold in January-July. The News, August 25, 2017.

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