End Waste Colonialism, Governing Plastic Pollution: Japan’s Opportunity to Lead Asia out of the Plastic Crisis

In 2022, Malaysia was the top importer of plastic waste from Japan. Out of a total of 563 million kg of plastic waste exported by Japan to other countries, 179 million kg was sent to Malaysia. The sheer scale of Japanese plastic waste exports calls into question the effectiveness of Japanese efforts in supporting programmes to tackle waste management and marine debris in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia. Malaysia already has limited capacity to recycle domestic waste, with only 24% of key plastic resins recycled in 2019.

This report examines the governance of the plastic waste trade by considering the case study of Japan as an exporting country and Malaysia as an importing country. This report discusses trade and pollution through the lens of waste colonialism, and raises questions about the transparency, traceability, and accountability of the governance frameworks. Finally, the opportunities for a global agreement on plastic pollution in addressing waste colonialism are explored.

Read the full report below.

Read our policy brief below.

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