Thursday 17 October 2019

Malaysia: 'We won't be a dumping ground for world's plastic waste'

Malaysia’s Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin shows plastic waste from a shipment that had arrived from abroad. AP Photo/Vincent Thian
Malaysia’s Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin shows plastic waste from a shipment that had arrived from abroad. AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Emile Laurac

MALAYSIA will send back some 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia in a move to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said.

Ms Yeo said Malaysia and many developing countries have become new targets after China banned the import of plastic waste last year.

Last week, the Philippines said it would ship back dozens of containers of rubbish which Filipino officials said were illegally shipped to the country from Canada in 2013 and 2014.

Ms Yeo said 60 containers stacked with contaminated waste were smuggled in en route to 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, she said, as she showed reporters contents of the waste at a port outside Kuala Lumpur.

The displayed items included 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 rubbish from France and other countries that had been rerouted after a ban imposed by China.

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 in 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 government has clamped down on dozens of illegal plastic recycling facilities that had mushroomed across the country, shuttering more than 150 plants since last July. Earlier this month, the government 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".

Ms Yeo said citizens in rich nations diligently separate their waste for recycling, but the rubbish 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".

Irish Independent

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