People living in this country must have developed really strong immune systems, not out of improved nutrition or better living conditions but out of sheer self-defense to continue surviving in a contaminated environment. As hyperbolic as this sounds, there is an alarming level of truth in it. One such example is the import of scrap and waste plastics.
While EPCL is the sole manufacturer of PVC in the country, it estimates that 16 percent of domestic needs are met through scrap imports. These consist of materials as hazardous as used IV drips which are then melted together to provide raw materials to other downstream plastic products. For example, plastic resin, a downstream product of PVC can leech into foods stored in recycled plastics containers.
Pakistan is a signatory of the Basel Convention, which is an international treaty that has been designed to prevent the movement of hazardous waste between countries in general. Specifically, its intention is to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. However, Germany's scrap plastic has found its way to Pakistan, as per SBP data. UK is another country from which clinical waste such as used infusion bags have been imported.
Scrap plastic is just another name for recycled plastic and does not necessarily imply contaminated plastic. To ensure that that scrap is not hazardous requires a goods declaration form, a laboratory analysis report and an examination report by customs. However, mis-declaration - for example labeling clinical waste as post production plastic scrap or left over materials obtained after completion of production process - allows for easy entry into the country.
Aggravating the problem is China's ban on import of certain hazardous scrap material which was imposed recently. The ban bars imports of 24 categories of solid waste, including certain types of plastics. This ban has already impacted Pakistan's paper market causing local prices to fall (for more information read "Paper dives, packaging flourishes," published February 19, 2018). It is possible that it will have repercussions for Pakistan since import consignments could increase substantially as China exits the global plastic scrap trade.