Malaysian authorities have confirmed they will send back 3000 metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to developed nations like the US, UK, Canada and Australia, adding that the country is not looking to become a wealthy country’s dumping ground for plastics.
Inspections on more than 50 containers thought to be imported illegally are to be carried out in the coming days, according to authorities. Malaysia is yet to publish the results of an official investigation into intentional mislabelling - smuggling - of waste into the country, several months after the government shut down 150 illegal plastic waste sorting facilities that were operating without official consent.
The move comes after China announced it would no longer accept imports of certain waste plastics, which sent many developing nations into a scramble to find a new country to take delivery of their waste.
Indonesia has conducted similar investigations to Malaysia, and found that as much as 30 per cent of the material imported into East Java labelled “paper scraps” were actually illegal scrap plastic material, which couldn’t be recycled.
According to official data released from Malaysia, plastic imports have tripled in the years since 2016, with a total of 870,000 tonnes being exported to its shores last year alone.
“Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world,” Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister for energy, technology, science, environment and climate change said, “we cannot be bullied by developed countries.”
“We urge developed countries to stop shipping garbage to our country,” Yeo said, adding that it was “unfair and uncivilised” for Western countries to expect Malaysia will take their plastic waste.
Last month, Malaysian authorities sent back five containers filled with plastic waste to Spain.
The Australian is reporting that “some 80 per cent of the 343,000 tonnes of waste shipped out of Australia that month went to Indonesia, India, China, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Vietnam.”
“We will return it back to the country of origin without mercy,” she concluded after inspecting trash-filled containers at Port Klang, one of Malaysia’s busiest seaports.
“These containers are filled with contaminated, non-homogenous, low-quality, non-recyclable plastic waste, and are routed to processing facilities which do not have the technology to recycle in an environmentally sound manner.”
News reports are quoting Lee Chee Kwang, an environmental activist with the group Environment Protection Agency Kuala Langat, who said Malaysia has “failed miserably” in curbing the amount of rubbish being imported, adding that the latest refusal to constituted little but a “symbolic public stunt which does not solve the problem.”
“The government must ban entry of plastic waste and declare it as public enemy number one,” Lee said. “The solution is a total ban of imports of all kinds of plastic.”