Criminal activity in plastic waste trade increases

A new INTERPOL report reveals increased illegal shipments and criminal activity across global plastic waste trade routes. WWF has issued a call for global cooperation to address the world’s plastic pollution crisis.

The overwhelming amount of plastic waste generated by the world has opened the doors to criminal networks, says the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A new INTERPOL report has revealed rising crime in the global plastic waste sector linked to illegal trade and illegal waste treatment.

Illegal shipments have been detected in transregional and intraregional plastic waste trade routes. This has prompted WWF to call for global action by governments, law enforcement agencies, businesses and consumers.

INTERPOL has highlighted the infiltration of criminal networks in the plastic waste trade, through the illegal re-rerouting of shipments and unauthorized waste management methods. The scale of plastic waste mismanagement is far-reaching, involving at least 52 out of the 257 trade routes analyzed by INTERPOL.

“Waste crime is a rising threat with roots in a more fundamental problem: the inability to manage our plastic use and production. We are witnessing the impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems and now, the criminal implications of it. Systemic change and greater accountability is the only way to tackle a crisis that transcends national borders. We call on world leaders to come together for a comprehensive treaty to address marine plastic pollution,” said Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Manager, WWF-International, in the statement.

Developing Asian countries, especially those with limited waste management and enforcement capacities, are increasingly targeted. In May 2020, Malaysia initiated the costly and extensive process of repatriating 3,737 metric tons of plastic waste – equivalent to 150 shipping containers – to 13 different countries of origin.

Momentum is growing for a comprehensive global framework to address plastic pollution at its source. Almost 2 million people around the world have signed a WWF petition urging their governments to establish a legally binding global treaty to address marine plastic pollution and 133 countries have already voiced their support for exploring the option of a global agreement.

Image credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

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