World Focus: Malaysia - where the world sends its trash

Malaysian plastic waste imports soar after China imposes ban, creating pollution crisis

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Since China banned plastic waste imports in January 2018, Malaysia has imported 754,000 tonnes of plastic from other countries, quickly becoming the world's "rubbish bin", according to Greenpeace.
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October
Wespack landfill in Jenjarom.
PHOTO: GREENPEACE
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October
Burning of plastic waste by the roadside in Pulau Indah, Klang. PHOTO: GREENPEACE
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October
Rubbish is left in the open, sometimes dumped into local water bodies, causing pollution. PHOTO: GREENPEACE
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October
A wrapper from Spain or Portugal. By examining the waste in illegal dumps, Greenpeace discovered that most of it originated from First World countries. PHOTO: GREENPEACE
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October
An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October last year. ST PHOTO: HAZLIN HASSAN
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. An illegal waste factory in Jenjarom. Greenpeace estimates that there are about 500 illegal plastic waste facilities around Selangor as of October
One of the legal factories in Malaysia which turn plastic waste into resin granules which are exported to China and India. ST PHOTO: HAZLIN HASSAN
A plastic waste dumpsite near a prawn farm in Jenjarom. Entire batches of prawns have reportedly died. PHOTO: GREENPEACE
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A putrid puddle filled with rubbish lies below a mountain of plastic scrap at an illegal dumpsite next to a palm oil plantation in Jenjarom, Klang, near Malaysia's largest port.

In the same Selangor town, about 70km from Kuala Lumpur, plastic waste is stacked in bags in factories, their contents spilling out onto the ground.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2019, with the headline World Focus: Malaysia - where the world sends its trash. Subscribe