The term ""waste colonialism"" was coined by activists in the late 1980s to describe the practice of developed nations dumping toxic wastes in developing and low-income countries, despite the fact that these countries had no technological or regulatory means to deal with the waste. Today, the toxic waste trade has been replaced by large volumes of post-consumer plastic, paper and e-waste trade. Countries like Japan, United States of America, and the United Kingdom have become world leaders of plastic waste export. Till 2017, China was by far the world leader in waste import, till the country banned most types of waste causing exports to other developing countries (including India) to rise dramatically. However, India's capacity to safely recycle this imported waste remains in doubt. A large part of the waste management chain is managed through informal workers and enterprises (who have no labour protection or social security), especially at the collection and segregation stage. Further, about 40 per cent of domestic waste goes uncollected due to poorly implemented laws. Of this, 56 per cent of recyclable wastes generated, and only 5 per cent of India's total e-waste gets recycled. By analyzing domestic and international regulations on waste trade, we seek to demonstrate that the new forms of waste trade echo the exploitation of developing countries from the '80s, and have caused the need for one, stronger international regulations so as to prevent exploitation of low-income countries, and two, the urgent need for wider implementation of segregation and collection policies to support domestic import bans.

Publication Date