Criminal networks exploiting legitimate pollution management businesses: Interpol
Criminal networks are exploiting legitimate pollution management businesses to enrich themselves, an Interpol report has warned citing increased illegal shipments of plastic waste particularly since January 2018 when China implemented new import restrictions on 24 types of solid waste including plastic.
China earlier alone imported a cumulative 45% of the world’s plastic waste between 1992 and 2018, making the global plastic waste market heavily dependent on the access to the Chinese recycling sector.
The Strategic Analysis Report on emerging criminal trends in the global plastic waste market since January 2018, which was released on Thursday, said difficulties in treating and monitoring the plastic waste surplus have opened doors for opportunistic crime in the plastic waste sector, both in terms of illegal trade and of illegal waste treatment.
“There has been a considerable increase over the past two years in illegal waste shipments, primarily re-routed to South-East Asia via multiple transit countries to camouflage the origin of the waste shipment,” the report said.
It cited a link between crime networks and legitimate pollution management businesses and added they are used as a cover for illegal operations. The report said criminals often resort to financial crime and document forgery to carry out their global operations.
The report referred to a case study in France, where the mayor of a small town was murdered for trying to prevent illegal waste dumping in his area. It added the case illustrates the stakes at hand and pointed to the kind of violence usually associated with organised crime.
The study said that plastic waste containers have been piling up in South-East Asian ports and sometimes it is re-exported illegally to neighbouring areas.
Interpol analysis suggests that since China imposed the waste import restrictions, Europe and North America are now believed to divert most of their exports to Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Turkey. This domino effect in the South East Asian region has created strong fluctuations and uncertainties in the plastic waste market, it said.
India has laws on plastic imports since a partial ban on them was adopted in 2016. However, plastic traders were taking advantage of legal exemptions to pursue the plastic trade, the report said.
“Following a sharp increase in plastic imports in 2018, the Indian government has published an amendment to the rule extending the ban to the whole country in March 2019, with clarification in October 2019 that the ban applies to all forms of plastic scrap,” the report said.
The report said the global plastic recycling market alone was valued at $34.80 billion in 2016. It was projected to reach $50.36 billion by 2022 and this excludes traditional waste processing modes like landfill incineration. Plastic waste processing is a high-value market, which provides revenue through energy recovery (via incineration and raw material generation through recycling).
It is estimated that since 1950, close to half of all plastic has ended up in landfills or dumped in the wild, and only 9% of used plastic has been adequately recycled. It is also estimated that 4 to 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, the report said.
For the report, 40 countries provided information to the international policing agency.