Tired of being ‘treated like trash’, communities across Southeast Asia have reached a critical moment in the region’s battle to put a halt to the toxic trade in plastic waste.

While already inundated and overwhelmed by plastic pollution in their own backyards, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have become the dumping grounds for the world’s waste following China’s decision to turn its back on the global waste market in late 2017.

In just a few years, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of foreign plastic scraps have poured into the region under the guise of recycling – with importers from countries including the U.S., Japan, the UK and other EU countries taking advantage of loopholes in regulation and inconsistent systems management to ship their unwanted toxic plastic waste into ASEAN member states including Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia – with mountains of plastic waste piling up at ports or left to rot or burned at illegal dumping sites.

All ASEAN countries must make an urgent joint declaration to end the trade in plastic waste imports from abroad, and put in place systems to support a sustainable plastic free world.