You dump, you pay, Yeo tells countries sending waste to Malaysia

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin.

PUTRAJAYA: The energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry says countries which have smuggled illegal plastic waste into Malaysia will be charged when asked to take it back.

Minister Yeo Bee Yin said these countries would also be asked to foot the bill for cleaning up their plastic waste here, provided that they are among the 187 signatories to the Basel Convention for hazardous waste.

The Basel Convention deals with the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste and disposal. It aims to prevent hazardous waste from being transferred to less developed countries.

Yeo referred to Article 9 of the convention which states, among others, that any transboundary movement of hazardous waste leading to a deliberate form of disposal is “illegal traffic”.

“They (signatory countries) have to be responsible for the cost of returning it,” she said in a press conference here today.

“We will send it back to them but charge them. The costs will be borne by them. Or if it’s not practical and they cannot bring it back, then we will dispose of it and charge them as well.”

Malaysia has been a signatory to the Basel Convention since 1993.

The government began requesting that countries pay to clean up their waste here or take it back following the recent discovery of 24 containers of plastic waste from Spain at Port Klang, Selangor.

The containers were said to have been brought into the country by a company which smuggled the waste by making a false declaration.

Yeo’s ministry has since ordered for the containers to be sent back to their country of origin by the shipping companies that brought them in.

She announced today that five containers have already been returned to Spain following a request from Malaysia.

As long as the Basel Convention is adhered to, she said, things would be all right as “we are diplomatically on the right path” to send back the waste.

Yeo Bee Yin (second from left) with the three members of the Malaysian delegation that attended the latest meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention in Switzerland.

She also said that operations are ongoing at Malaysian ports to check if plastic waste is being brought into the country. The Department of Environment will also check containers that hold plastic suspected to be dirty or brought in under false declarations.

Recent reports say Malaysia is quickly becoming a top destination for the world’s plastic waste, with plastic waste imports rapidly increasing over the years.

Speaking today, Yeo said a three-member delegation from her ministry as well as a representative from the housing and local government ministry had attended the latest meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention.

She said on June 2 last year, the government of Norway had submitted a proposal to create a new category for plastic waste which Malaysia fully supports. Tighter regulations for plastic were passed during the meeting this year.

Previously, plastic was not distinguished as recyclable and non-recyclable.

Signatory countries have until Jan 1, 2021 to bring local laws in line with the amendment.

Yeo said her ministry is working with the housing and local government, transport and international trade and industry ministries on the matter.