150 containers of plastic waste shipped back

Malaysia will not tolerate actions that would turn the country into the world’s garbage dump

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA continues to redirect unwanted plastic waste shipments arriving on its shores with 150 containers sent back to their countries of origin to date.

Most of the cargoes — seized across ports in Klang, Penang and Sarawak — were from developed countries such as France, the UK and the US that were rerouted to Malaysia following China’s ban on foreign plastic imports in 2018. Prior to that, China was the world’s largest importer of plastic waste.

Imports into Malaysia has since steadily increased from an estimated 20,000 tonnes per month at the beginning of 2017 to about 110,000 tonnes per month in early 2018.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin (picture) said Malaysia will not tolerate actions that would turn the country into the world’s garbage dump, adding that 110 more containers are expected to be shipped back within the next six months.

Yeo had described the repatriation as “unprecedented” as the return of the 3,737 metric tonnes (MT) of wastes since the third quarter of last year were borne by exporting countries and shipping lines.

“It is not about money, but dignity. We are not supposed to pay them to send it back. We do not want to pay a single sen. We are not the world’s rubbish dump,” the minister said at the North Butterworth Container Terminal in Penang yesterday.

Out of the 150 containers, 43 were sent back to France, 42 to the UK, 17 to the US, 11 to Canada, 10 to Spain and the remaining to Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Portugal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Lithuania.

Putrajaya is also in discussion with the US authorities to take back another 60 containers this year. The bulk of the 110 that are still being held here include 15 containers from Canada, Japan (14), the UK (9) and Belgium (8), Yeo said.

She added that each container weighs about 20MT, making the overall weight of the impending shipments at about 2,200MT.

On factories that have been shut down, Yeo said a total of 218 illegal mills have ceased operations following inspections carried out on 393 factories throughout the country last year. Enforcement actions will continue to close down more units.

Meanwhile, the government is scheduled to launch a new national action plan on illegal plastic waste importation next month to streamline enforcement procedures across all agencies involved.

Yeo said the action plan will offer standard operating measures for agencies such as the Department of Environment, Customs Department, National Solid Waste Management Department, port authorities and local governments.