Illegal plastic recycling factories booming in Penang

BUKIT MERTAJAM • The Penang authorities believe there are about 400 plastic recycling factories in Seberang Perai alone, but the number of illegal operators may easily outnumber these legal outfits.

Penang's Cabinet minister in charge of the environment, Mr Phee Boon Poh, said most of the illegal operators are in the Bukit Tengah area of Seberang Perai, the mainland side of the Malaysian state.

"I believe that there are more unlicensed plastic recycling factories than the legal ones, and the waste is mainly brought in from other states or imported."

Mr Phee said most recycling factories in Malaysia are located near the main Port Klang in Selangor and in Penang as both states have ports for the plastic waste to be brought in. "Penang is an ideal place due to its close proximity to Kedah (a rural state) and its abundance of remote areas."

The Malaysian authorities aim to shut all illegal plastic waste recycling factories by July.

Mr Phee said that apart from freezing permits, Penang should also have legal provisions to ensure that electricity and water supplies are cut off at these illegal factories.

A joint investigation into plastic recycling factories last year in Selangor's Kuala Langat area by Greenpeace Malaysia and the Kuala Langat Environmental Protection Association found that Malaysia took in plastic waste from at least 19 countries.


The report said that between January and July last year, Malaysia imported 754,000 tonnes of plastic valued at RM483 million (S$160 million).

According to Greenpeace, only 9 per cent of the plastic waste was clean plastic that could be recycled.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 19, 2019, with the headline 'Illegal plastic recycling factories booming in Penang'. Print Edition | Subscribe