Another 132 containers with plastic waste found in Butterworth port

Penang Customs director Saidi Ismail (centre) at a press conference on May 30 in Butterworth. With him is Penang Environment  Committee Chairman Phee Boon Poh.

GEORGE TOWN: The Customs Department today revealed that another 132 containers with plastic waste have been found at the Butterworth port, bringing the total number of containers with plastic waste to 397.

Just two weeks ago, the department said there were 265 containers with plastic waste at the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT). Storage costs have gone past RM5 million.

Penang Customs director Saidi Ismail said the 132 containers had been declared under “wrong codes” and that the companies concerned did not have the Approved Permits (APs) to bring in plastics.

This time, most of the containers were from Hong Kong (94). There were also containers from the United States (68), Germany (28) and Canada (20).

He said the containers had been brought in by 11 local companies.

“As for now, we will issue compounds worth RM1,000 for each of these containers to the companies for wrongful declaration of their consignments, by using a different code, and for not having an AP to bring in plastics,” he said at a press conference in Butterworth.

The code referred to is the Harmonised Commodity Description & Coding System, also known as HS Code, which is required for each consignment entering seaports for Customs declaration purposes.

Saidi noted that consignments of recyclable plastic waste with legitimate paperwork and APs were common, with at least five containers arriving at the NBCT daily.

Meanwhile, Penang Environment Committee Chairman Phee Boon Poh said the containers would be sent back.

“While the instruction from the environment minister is for us to send it back to the countries of origin, we want an assurance from the countries concerned that these would not be dumped midway in the ocean.

“We are responsible Malaysians and we do not want to worsen the problem by having people dump plastics into the sea.”

The problem of plastic waste began when China banned imports of plastic waste in 2017. This plastic waste then found its way to Southeast Asian countries.

Chinese companies have since taken up stakes in recycling factories in Malaysia.

Reports show that the country’s plastic waste imports rose to 456,000 tonnes between January and July 2018, compared with 316,600 tonnes in 2017 and 168,500 tonnes in 2016.

Malaysia has been the largest recipient of US plastic waste, registering 195,444 tonnes of plastic waste between January and July 2018, which was more than the 97,544 tonnes recorded in 2017.