Malaysia will send back some 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as Australia, the US, the UK and Canada to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations.
- Malaysia will begin shipping the unwanted waste back to countries of origin within two weeks
- The Malaysian Government has shut down more than 150 illegal plastic recycling facilities
- Dumping non-recyclable plastic in developing nations causes health hazards, Malaysia’s Environment Minister says
Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Malaysia and many developing countries had become new targets after China banned the import of plastic waste last year, disrupting the flow of more than 7 million tonnes of plastic scrap a year.
Last week, the Philippines announced it would ship back dozens of containers of garbage that Filipino officials said were illegally shipped to the country from Canada in 2013 to 2014.
Ms Yeo said 60 containers stacked with contaminated waste were smuggled in, bound for illegal processing facilities in Malaysia, and would be sent back to their countries of origin.
Ten of the containers are due to be shipped back within two weeks.
Milk cartons, cables, CDs and rubbish shipped to Malaysia
The waste is at a port outside Kuala Lumpur and contains items including cables from the UK, contaminated milk cartons from Australia and compact discs from Bangladesh, as well as bales of electronic and household waste from the US, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China.
Ms Yeo said the waste from China appeared to be garbage from France and other countries that had been rerouted.
In one case alone, Ms Yeo said a UK recycling company exported more than 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers to Malaysia over the past two years.
“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg (due) to the banning of plastic waste by China,” Ms Yeo said.
“Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world … we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we can’t be bullied by developed countries.”
The Malaysian Government has clamped down on dozens of illegal plastic recycling facilities that had mushroomed across the country, shutting more than 150 plants since July.
Earlier this month, they also sent back five containers of waste to Spain.
Ms Yeo said China’s plastic waste ban had “opened up the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem”.
‘Stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries’
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to forcibly ship back dozens of containers of garbage to Canada.
His Government has recalled its ambassador and consuls in Canada over its failure to comply with a May 15 deadline to take back the garbage.
Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said arrangements had been made for the return of 69 containers filled with household waste and electronic garbage to Canada by the end of June.
The Philippines, however, rejected Canada’s plan and will look for a private shipping company to rapidly transport the garbage to Canadian territory.
Philippine officials were assessing separate shipments from Hong Kong and Australia that environmental activists said allegedly contained garbage and should be sent back to their points of origin.
Ms Yeo said citizens in rich nations diligently separate their waste for recycling, but the garbage ended up being dumped in developing nations where they are recycled illegally, causing environmental and health hazards.
“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries,” she said, calling such practices “unfair and uncivilised”.
Ms Yeo vowed to take action against Malaysian companies illegally importing used plastic, calling them “traitors to the country’s sustainability”.