KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia will return 3,000 metric tons of non-recyclable plastic waste from 60 containers to their countries of origin, officials said on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change said that the first group of 10 containers containing 450 tons of contaminated plastic waste will be shipped back to the United States, China, Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh at an unspecified date.
On April 29, Malaysia sent five containers of plastic waste brought illegally into the country to Spain.
“We will continue to weed out the imports of contaminated plastic waste. These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declaration and other offenses which clearly violates our environmental law,” MESTECC Minister Yeo Bee Yin said in a statement.
“Garbage is traded under the pretext of recycling. Malaysians are forced to suffer poor air quality due to open burning of plastics which leads to health hazard, polluted rivers, illegal landfills and a host of other related problems,” she added.
Since China banned the import of non-recyclable plastic waste at the end of 2018, the traffic has been diverted mainly to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
According to the data of the ecological organization Greenpeace, imports of plastic waste in Malaysia have multiplied since the Chinese ban, with Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom being the leading exporters between January-July last year.
Malaysian authorities pointed out that since July 2018, the Department of Environment has intensified measures against the import of non-recyclable plastics from countries including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, Norway and France.
According to an amendment of the Basel Convention, ratified by 186 countries and the European Union – the US is a notable absence –, the export of toxic waste from developed countries to lesser developed nations is prohibited.
The Basel Convention, which entered into force in 1992, was a result of the practice of exporting hazardous waste from developed countries to underdeveloped ones for disposal, deemed “Toxic Colonialism.”