PORT KLANG - Malaysia will send back plastic scrap imported illegally from several countries, including Singapore and Bangladesh, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, Yeo Bee Yin, said on Tuesday (May 28).
“We will work very hard to make sure that whoever sends their waste to Malaysia, we will send it back and we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we cannot be bullied by developed countries,” she told a news conference after inspecting nine containers from Australia, United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and Bangladesh at Westport, Klang.
Containers filled with contaminated, non-homogeneous, low quality, non-recyclable plastic waste are entering the country, contravening local and international laws, said Ms Yeo.
She showed reporters plastic milk cartons riddled with maggots from Australia , while a container from China had packaging from France among its contents.
Other containers held mixed plastic and electronic waste, brought into the country under false declarations and other pretences.
She said that just one recycling company in the UK exported more than 50,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers to Malaysia for the past two years.
“Garbage like what you see just now is traded under the pretext of recycling,” said Ms Yeo.
“What the citizens of the UK believe they are sending for recycling, is actually being dumped in our country,” she said.
“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage out to developing countries. If they ship to Malaysia, we will return it back without mercy,” she added.
Local importers will be forced to foot the bill and return the shipments within 14 days, failing which the government will resort to using the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which will involve a lengthier procedure and the exporters, she said.
The minister said that a total of five containers were returned to Spain on April 29 and she expected a further 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste from 10 containers to be shipped back soon.
To date, the ministry has inspected 123 containers from, among others, Singapore, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, United States, Japan, China, Spain, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Norway and France.
A total of 3,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste found in 60 of the containers are expected to be sent back.
Since July last year, the Malaysian government has cracked down on illegal imports of plastic waste, and shut down unlicensed plastic recycling factories.
Last year, illegal recycling factories, said to be operated by Chinese nationals, began mushrooming in Malaysia after Beijing banned plastic waste imports in January.
Malaysia took in 754,000 tonnes of plastic between January and July last year, up from 450,000 tonnes in 2017.
But, after struggling with the increased shipments of trash and complaints of health and environmental problems from residents, the government decided that it would not be the “trash can” for developed nations.
It shut down over 150 illegal plastic recycling factories, suspended imports of plastic waste and tightened the criteria for licences to import plastic waste for recycling.
Malaysia’s actions to send back the scrap came after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his government to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if Ottawa refuses to accept it.