Imports of plastic and electronic waste have declined sharply after the government curbed imports of foreign waste, says the Customs Department.
Plastic waste imported to Thailand fell to 174,000 tonnes during the five months to May from 571,000 tonnes for the full year of 2018, while e-waste import volume plunged to 12,200 tonnes in the January-May period from 51,500 tonnes last year, said Krisada Chinavicharana, director-general of the Customs Department.
Southeast Asian countries have become a dumping ground for plastic and high-tech trash shipped from advanced economies like Japan, Europe, Canada and the US after China imposed a ban on such imports.
After the recent flood of foreign trash, the government on June 2018 decided to prohibit recycling and waste processing plants that fail to comply with requirements under the Basel Convention for importing e-waste, leaving only one importer now.
Waste importers must have a licence granted by the Industrial Works Department. For plastic waste imported from overseas, the quota has been reduced.
Thailand imported 167,000 tonnes of plastic and 100,000 tonnes of high-tech waste in 2017.
E-waste historically was imported to be mined for valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper.
Given still-strong demand for e-waste in Thailand, the Customs Department has set urgent measures as practical guidelines.
Customs has closely monitored and analysed the situation of imported plastic and e-waste, taking aim at suspected importers and launching investigations.
The department has instructed all customs officials to tighten the inspection of imported plastic and e-waste, as well as waste with a similar appearance to this type of trash to prevent smuggling.
In cases where the department finds breaches of the law related to importing plastic and e-waste, it will file complaints with the police, Mr Krisada said.
Since 2018, the Customs Department has made arrests of those who smuggled imported plastic waste in 103 cases with a total weight of 4,043 tonnes valued at 17.5 million baht.
The department last year redirected tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic scrap and e-waste after importers failed to process customs clearance procedures on time.