By DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
The plastic waste industry is worth a staggering RM30 billion and it is rather challenging for the government to ban it entirely, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin (picture) said.
She said four ministries including Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change; International Trade and Industry; and Water, Land and Natural Resources have collectively agreed on the direction of the plastic waste import and it’s business potential.
“We cannot take this matter lightly as it provides a huge income to this country’s revenue,” Zuraida told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
She said the four ministries have decided to tighten the import procedures and conditions for plastic waste.
Zuraida was responding to a question by Klang MP Charles Santiago who asked whether the ministry intends to change the National Solid Waste Management (SWM) Policy to prohibit all plastic waste imported from abroad.
“There are no plans to change the SWM policy,” Zuraida said.
Discussions on the plastic waste issue were pushed forward following reports that Malaysia is gradually becoming a recycling hub for foreign trash in the wake of China’s ban on the import of plastic waste.
“The only plastic allowed to be imported is high-quality plastic, which consists of homogeneous and clean palettes from the industry and not garbage waste.
Zuraida added that the ministries involved with plastic waste management have also agreed on a time frame before phasing out the imports while sourcing out domestic plastic waste to be processed.
“We also need to reduce the use of plastics and control the factories that are supposed to process plastics and generate income for the country,” she said.
“A committee was set up to check 114 plastic factories that have approvals to carry plastic waste imports in light of the issue on abuse of approved permits (APs) for plastic waste, as well as the dumping of plastic waste at processing factories operating illegally.
“We find that only eight have fulfilled the ministry’s conditions,” Zuraida added.
Zuraida said more stringent conditions have also been set for online application process to obtain APs to import plastic waste.
“We have added 18 new conditions to ensure these companies don’t carry out illegal import of plastic waste,” she said.
In response to Santiago’s statement that there were 100 illegal plastic processing factories still operating in Klang even after the local council revoked their licences, Zuraida said a circular has already been issued to all local authorities, notably those in Selangor and Penang, to shut down illegal factories.
“Since the incident was exposed, we have frozen licences to import plastic. Each licence application to process these plastic materials needs to get a consent letter from the ministry, and we have not approved any application since then,” she added.