Loopholes exploited for plastic waste imports, says minister

Zuraida Kamaruddin receiving a memorandum from Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani chairwoman Ong Kok Fooi (right).

GURUN: A high-level ministerial committee is looking into closing loopholes in the law and grey areas over jurisdiction, which have allowed plastic waste to be imported into Malaysia.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said today that the problem of the mounting plastic waste had come about because of grey areas under present laws, which were silent about plastic waste.

New laws would probably be created to prevent imports of illegal plastic waste, Zuraida said. “We will look into streamlining laws, standard operating procedures and removing loopholes in regards to plastic waste by this year.”

She said the problem began with plastics being falsely declared at the ports, and this was made worse by the short-staffed Customs being able to inspect only 10% of all consignments.

Zuraida said licensing by local councils allowed plastic wastes to be stored at factories. However, local councils were unable to act as valid business licences had been issued for these factories.

She said only those granted Approved Permits (APs) by her ministry were allowed to keep plastic wastes on the premises, as the AP was issued based on strict criteria. She said 44 APs were issued since December.

“You see, having a business licence and an AP are two different things. The moment you are not qualified on one aspect, by right, you (the factories) should be considered illegal. This is no thanks to a loophole in the Local Government Act that is being exploited by certain quarters,” she said.

Zuraida said compounding the issue further was the different jurisdictions of the various ministries or agencies.

Plastic waste came under the jurisdictions of the International Trade and Industry, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, Local Government and Housing ministries, and the Customs.

She spoke to reporters after opening the Infaq and Iftar Perdana a Masjid Batu 5 at Taman Ria Mesra here today.

Earlier, Zuraida received a memorandum from Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani chairwoman Ong Kok Fooi, over concerns of mounting plastic waste and foul air quality.

On the Sungai Petani’s recycling factories hoarding plastics, she said the Sungai Petani Municipal Council had said all the factories had “followed the law”.

Zuraida said as of now, there were only five recycling factories operating legally with APs. She said as for claims that sealed factories were operating, it would be difficult to detect them.

“Ultimately, we should stop unwanted plastic waste at its source, which is the ports.”