Organizations from all over the world demand that the United States stops exporting its plastic waste to Latin America

December 16th, 2021More than 70 organisations from around the world signed a public statement to reject the transboundary trade of plastic waste in Latin American countries and to demand that the United States, the main exporter of thousands of tons of plastic waste, manage its waste on its territory.

December 16th – Member organizations of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) in Latin America from Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile published significant data that showed that plastic waste exports from the United States to some Latin American countries increased by more than 100% in 2020. Mexico, El Salvador and Ecuador are the main importers of plastic imports in the region. 

Key findings:

  • According to the U.S. International free trade database, USA Trade Online, between January and August 2020, 44,173 tons of plastic waste arrived from the United States to 15 Latin American countries.  The US exported 44,173 tonnes of plastic waste to 15 Latin American countries between January and August 2020, sending at least 35 containers of plastic waste per day to the region.
  • Mexico, El Salvador, and Ecuador are the leading importers of plastic waste in the region.Between January and August 2020 alone, 32,650 tonnes arrived in Mexico; 4,054 tonnes in El Salvador; and 3,665 tonnes in Ecuador.
  • Currently, trade in plastic waste is carried out through ambiguous and generic tariff classifications, which hinders traceability until their final use. From the experiences of Asian countries, there is ample evidence that waste arrives contaminated or is difficult to recycle, which has a serious impact on the receiving countries.

Plastic waste exports became a threat after China stopped this type of import in 2018 to protect its territory from contamination. Globally, there is growing concern about the shipment of plastic waste from significant powerhouses such as the United States, the largest exporter of plastic waste and not a signatory to the Basel Convention, to nations with weak legislation and controls such as countries in Latin America, South East Asia and Africa. This issue highlights the fragility of recycling systems worldwide, the imperative need to move towards zero waste systems that prioritise reduction and reuse and, most importantly, that each country, especially those in the global North, manage their waste within their own territories.

Signatory organizations, demand that:

  • Latin American and Caribbean countries adapt their legislation to implement the Basel Convention (all signatories except Haiti) and its Plastics Amendment.
  • Authorities should make information on imports of plastic waste transparent and strengthen their controls.
  • Customs registries should be in place to know precisely the type and state of plastic waste entering Latin American ports.
  • The protection of territories and its communities should be a priority in the face of bilateral or multilateral agreements such as free trade agreements which could facilitate the entry of plastic waste.

Fernanda Soliz, Health Area Director at Simón Bolívar University, Ecuador.

“Crossborder plastic waste trade is perhaps one of the most nefarious expressions of the commercialization of common goods and the colonial occupation of territories of the geopolitical south to turn them into sacrifice zones. Latin America and the Caribbean are not the backyards of the United States. We are sovereign territories, and we demand the respect of the rights of Nature and our peoples” 

Melissa Aguayo, Break Free From Plastic – U.S. Coordinator.

“It is irresponsible and immoral that the United States fails to prevent companies from exporting plastic waste to Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as throughout the Global South. Rather than implementing proper waste reduction measures domestically, the U.S. is perpetrating waste colonialism by dumping this toxic pollution on other countries. We are in solidarity with our Latin American partners and allies who demand their national governments stop accepting waste imports. We will hold the U.S. government accountable for real and equitable solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.”

More Information


CONTACT: Camila Aguilera – / +569 51111599

GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped.