Malaysia to send plastic waste back to UK and other foreign nations to avoid becoming ‘dumping ground’

Southeast Asian country becomes new target for waste after China bans plastic rubbish imports

Tuesday 28 May 2019 14:07 BST
Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin has said her country ‘cannot be bullied by developed countries’ who ship waste abroad
Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin has said her country ‘cannot be bullied by developed countries’ who ship waste abroad (AP)

Malaysia will send back some 3,000 metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia in a move to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations, the country’s environment minister said.

Yeo Bee Yin said Malaysia and many developing countries have become new targets after China banned the import of plastic waste.

She said 60 containers stacked with contaminated waste were smuggled in en route to illegal processing facilities in the country and will be sent back to their countries of origin.

Ten of the containers are due to be shipped back within two weeks, she said, as she showed reporters contents of the waste at a port outside Kuala Lumpur.

The displayed items included cables from the UK, contaminated milk cartons from Australia and CDs from Bangladesh, as well as bundles of electronic and household waste from the US, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China.

Ms Yeo said the waste from China appeared to be rubbish from France and other countries that had been rerouted after a ban imposed by China.

“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg due to the banning of plastic waste by China,” Ms Yeo told a news conference.

“Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world ... we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we can’t be bullied by developed countries.”

In one case alone, Ms Yeo said a UK recycling company exported more than 50,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers to Malaysia over the past two years.

The Malaysian government has clamped down on dozens of illegal plastic recycling facilities that had mushroomed across the country, shuttering more than 150 plants since last July.

Earlier this month, the government also sent back five containers of waste to Spain.

Ms Yeo said China’s plastic waste ban had “opened up the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem”.

Citizens in rich nations diligently separate their waste for recycling but the rubbish has ended up being dumped in developing nations where it is recycled illegally, causing environmental and health hazards, she said.

“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries,” she said, calling such practices “unfair and uncivilised”.

Ms Yeo vowed to take action against Malaysian companies illegally importing used plastic, calling them “traitors to the country’s sustainability”.

Associated Press

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