Waste-filled containers stuck in Malaysian ports

Senders and receivers of illegal waste cannot be traced: Source

KLANG • A huge number of containers with waste materials are stuck in various ports in Malaysia.

The containers carry illegal waste materials that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin had ordered in April to be sent back to their countries of origin after they were found stashed in illegal recycling factories.

According to an industry source, the containers are stuck at the ports because the senders could not be traced. Neither could most of the importers, he said.

This has made it difficult to trace the overseas freight forwarder or recycler that the party had obtained the waste materials from.

"This is most probably because some of the illegal recycling factories in Malaysia were managed and run by foreigners who left the country after their premises were busted recently by the authorities," said the source.

Even when parties from the source country have been located, most refuse to cooperate.

The source said: "Most of the waste stuck in containers is recyclable. It would be cheaper to just recycle it than send it back... (as) the cost is going to be very high."

Besides knowing where to send the waste to, freight forwarding companies tasked with returning the materials to the countries of origin need to know who will foot the bill.

Ms Yeo made it clear on Sept 28 that the federal government would not spend a single sen to send waste-filled containers back to the countries of origin.

She said then: "It's not just about the cost; it's about dignity. Why do they send things to us and we still need to pay them to send them back?"

She insisted that the senders must pay the fines for the import of illegal waste.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry deputy secretary-general K. Nagulendran was quoted in The Star last month as saying that there were over 200 containers of plastic waste imports waiting to be sent back to their countries of origin, and nearly all of these containers do not have approved permits.

Non-governmental organisation Sahabat Alam Malaysia research officer Mageswari Sangralingam said Malaysia was in a quagmire because the government could not enforce regulations stringently nor control the type of waste being imported into the country.

Her organisation has called on the government to stop issuing any more permits for the import of plastic waste and to step up enforcement.

"We are not a dumping ground. If other countries like Cambodia, Indonesia can send back the waste, Malaysia should be able to identify the exporters as well as importers and send the waste back," said Ms Mageswari.

Meanwhile, the logistics industry has become cautious when foreign parties say they want to send waste materials to Malaysia.

"We ask the sending party to furnish full information of the receiving party in Malaysia and will carry out the shipment only when we have contacted them (the receiving party) and have ascertained that they are a legitimate business," said a source from a logistics and shipping company of international standing.

He said the containers of waste materials languishing in the ports must have been sent quite some time ago, when shipping and logistics agents were not as cautious as they are now with regard to the shipping of waste.

"That is why," he added, "the senders now cannot be traced."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2019, with the headline Waste-filled containers stuck in Malaysian ports. Subscribe