BUTTERWORTH: Malaysia has managed to send back 150 containers of unwanted plastic waste to their countries of origin, with France, the United Kingdom and the United States heading the list.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said this was “unprecedented” as the government did not fork out a single sen, with importers and shipping lines bearing the costs.
“It is not about money but dignity. We are not supposed to pay them to send it back. We do not want to pay a single sen. We are not the world’s rubbish dump,” she told reporters at Butterworth port today.
Yeo said the 150 containers, seized at Port Klang and ports in Penang and Sarawak, contained a total of 3,737 metric tonnes of waste.
Their countries of origin also included Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Lithuania.
She said another 110 containers, including 60 from the US, 15 from Canada and 14 from Japan, were waiting to be shipped back. The other containers came from the UK, Belgium, Mexico, Hungary, France and Jamaica.
She said the government was in touch with US agencies to help in the repatriation of the containers.
Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries have become a hub for plastic waste recycling after China decided to stop all plastic imports.
After a massive plastic dumping ground was found in Selangor two years ago, the importers moved up north, with Kedah being a prime choice for illegal recycling factories.
The illegal factories have reportedly spewed toxic air, especially in Sungai Petani, but environment authorities there have denied that the air is polluted.
‘Illegal factories will be closed, again and again’
Yeo said that when China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018, many countries were unaware of how to handle containers being diverted elsewhere.
She said Malaysia has since come up with a comprehensive plan to strengthen enforcement through a special task force involving related agencies.
This, she said, led to a drop in illegal plastic waste being imported nationwide, although it has not been “wiped out” completely.
Yeo said the key measure to curb unwanted plastic imports was to stop them at the source – the ports of entry.
At the same time, she said, the Department of Environment (DoE) would continue to move in on illegal factories.
“We will continue to close (the illegal factories) again and again. We will see who is more persistent,” she said.
Yeo also said the National Action Plan for Importation of Plastic Wastes will be launched next month as a guide for enforcement agencies.
France agrees to take back 43 illegal waste containers from Malaysia
Reuters reported from Paris that Malaysia had shipped 43 illegal plastic waste containers back to France as part of a crackdown on the illegal trafficking of waste.
A joint statement by the two governments said the company responsible for shipping the containers has been identified and fined 192,000 euros (RM862,742). It did not identify the company.