Global waste trade

Malaysia turns the tide on West's trash

It increases a levy on imported plastic, closes illegal recycling factories, takes operators to court, and tries to hold originating countries accountable

The scene of alleged plastic waste dumping in a forest in the Tasek Industrial Area of Ipoh earlier this year.
An auxiliary police officer inspecting plastic waste inside containers in Port Klang before the waste is sent back to the country of origin. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Plastic waste piled outside an illegal recycling factory in Jenjarom, Selangor. By the end of last year, more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste was imported into Malaysia, including illegal, often contaminated, waste from richer nations keen to ge
Plastic waste piled outside an illegal recycling factory in Jenjarom, Selangor. By the end of last year, more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste was imported into Malaysia, including illegal, often contaminated, waste from richer nations keen to get rid of material that was costly and troublesome to dispose of. PHOTO: REUTERS
Plastic waste piled outside an illegal recycling factory in Jenjarom, Selangor. By the end of last year, more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste was imported into Malaysia, including illegal, often contaminated, waste from richer nations keen to ge
The scene of alleged plastic waste dumping in a forest in the Tasek Industrial Area of Ipoh earlier this year. PHOTO: BERNAMA

After taking over from China as the world's main dumping ground for illegal plastic waste, Malaysia is fighting back.

Aside from plans to set up a designated waste park, the government has shut down illegal recycling factories without licences. Some of these illegal factories were located close to residential areas and lacked suitable facilities.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 24, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia turns the tide on West's trash'. Subscribe