Contaminated plastics exports to be returned

The illegal practice, which has been used by exporters to gain profit, is in violation of the Basel Convention


All plastics exports that have been brought into the country under false declaration would be returned to the exporting origin countries.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) Minister Yeo Bee Yin (picture) said the illegal practice, which has been used by exporters to gain profit, is in violation of the Basel Convention — an international treaty that regulates the movement of hazardous materials between countries.

“According to our reports, more than 100 containers in Westports, Port Klang, alone hold contaminated and suspicious plastic materials which have not been checked, and they are being wrongly declared as non-waste.

“Among the countries that have been exporting these materials are the UK, US, Australia, Germany and Spain. We will respond through the Basel Convention, as there is an article stated that exporters are obliged to return the materials to the origin countries,” she told reporters during a media visit in Pulau Indah, Klang, yesterday.

She said the containers have been brought into the country under the code Harmonised System 3920, which exempts the exporters from getting a permit to export, which is considered as false declaration.

Yeo said MESTECC will conduct a detail investigation to locate the sourcing countries and companies of the contaminated export materials to be presented to the respective ministries for further deliberation for waste banning directive.

“The investigation at Port Klang is only the first step as we have received reports for Penang Port Sdn Bhd and ports in Johor.

“We will conduct an investigation for a month to find the source of the illegal plastic waste recycling in our country because the contaminated plastics are generally not accepted by licensed factories.

“So, the exporting companies, which receive incentives by their government for converting their unused materials, are trying to make profit by recycling harmful materials — which should not be recycled in the first place — in Malaysia,” she said.

She added that the extensive numbers of containers at local ports in the country are being grounded before the government can pursue with the returning process.

“At present, all checked containers that are proved to contain contaminated plastic materials will be grounded and will not leave the ports before full inspection.

“We have grounds to terminate these activities. The root of the dumping ground problem lies at the port because the scan cannot detect if the materials are being wrongly declared,” she said.

At present, she said the government has ceased 148 illegal plastic processing premises and factories in the country that have breached the Environment Quality Act 1974.

South-East Asian countries have been targeted as the alternatives for waste dumping after China refused to buy plastic waste after more than 25 years of recycling scraps from the developed Western countries.

The developed nations and most of the South-East Asian countries have been in the business of trading waste as it is more effective to ship waste to the latter than building a capacity to manage waste.

Last year, Yeo announced a ban on imports of all non-recyclable solid waste, particularly plastics, while the Housing and Local Government Ministry had put a three-month moratorium on the application for the plastic waste approved permit.