US tops list of plastic shipments sent back as of July

pic by AFP

MALAYSIA has sent back 225 shipping containers of plastic waste to 21 countries as of July, with 49 containers going to the US.

Apart from the US, other countries involved were France with 48 containers, the UK (47), Hong Kong (23), Canada (11), Spain (10), Belgium (7), Japan (5), Singapore (4), Australia (3), China (3), Portugal (3), Germany (2), South Korea (2) and Vietnam (2).

Others included Taiwan, Poland, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia with one container each, Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said in a written parliamentary reply to the Dewan Negara yesterday.

The shipment of the illegal plastic wastes was sent back via three ports — namely, Port Klang, Penang Port and Senari Port in Sarawak.

He said there were 69 additional containers in the process of being repatriated, in response to Senator Datuk Paul Igai who made an inquiry on the matter.

Malaysia has been inundated with shipments of illegal plastic waste since 2018, when China cracked down on its recycling industry.

Imports into Malaysia 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, following Beijing’s ban on foreign plastic imports.

For scheduled waste, Tuan Ibrahim said a total 104 containers have been returned to 11 countries including Singapore with 51 containers, the US (24), Hong Kong (9), Australia (6), China (5), Japan (3), Taiwan (2), Thailand (1), Saudi Arabia (1), Sweden (1) and Turkey (1).

He said 482 containers of illegal scheduled wastes were being processed for repatriation.

Earlier in July, local authorities discovered 110 containers of illegally dumped toxic waste in what has been described as “the biggest finding of its kind” in the country’s history.

The containers, which contained 1,864 tonnes of electric arc furnace dust — a hazardous by-product of steel production — were dumped last month at the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor.

It was then reported that the wastes will be sent back to Romania and authorities have asked Interpol to investigate.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the utilisation of single-use plastic surge, raising concerns on increasing pollution while leaving developed countries desperate to find new dumping grounds.

A recent report by The New York Times revealed that a lobby group representing some of the world’s largest oil and chemical companies have been pushing the Trump administration to use its trade negotiations with Kenya to lift the latter’s limits on plastics.

Environmental group Ocean Conservancy had recently estimated that over 50% of the eight million tonnes of plastic waste that ends up in the world’s oceans each year comes from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, partly due to massive shipments of plastic wastes from richer Western countries to middle- to low-income countries.