British plastic packaging found in illegal Malaysia landfills

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:
The UK processes around twice as much plastic packaging for recycling as it processes domestically

Plastic packaging from everyday British products sent for recycling has been found discarded at illegal dump sites in Malaysia.

An Unearthed investigation found vast piles of rubbish standing 10 ft tall on a site measuring nearly three acres near the town of Jenjarom.

Packaging including Fairy dishwasher tablets, Yeo Valley Yoghurt and Tesco Finest crisps, plus plastics from Spain, France, Germany and Japan was found.

Residents in the area have complained fumes from recycling factories without permits have kept them awake at night, Unearthed says.

The UK processes around twice as much plastic packaging for recycling as it processes domestically.

Six UK exporters of plastic waste have had their licences suspended or cancelled in the last three months.

Since China placed strict bans on its imports in January 2018, surrounding countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have become top destinations for plastic for recycling.

Yet these countries do not currently have the infrastructure to deal with the rate of plastic waste being imported.

The sudden influx has led to Thailand also placing strict bans on plastic imports.

Speaking in parliament last week, Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment, said: “The situation is getting worse, especially with more and more illegal plastic recycling factories.”

Yet Yeo admitted that the plastic recycling industry would earn Malaysia an estimated 3.5 billion ringgit ($841.95 million) this year.

Simon Ellin, CEO of the Recycling Association, said: “Malaysia is rightly taking measures to ensure it does not become a dumping ground for our waste. But once China closed to plastics imports, that should not have been an excuse to find somewhere else such as Malaysia to send our low-quality plastics.”

Ellin argued that the Asian economies can benefit from UK’s plastic imports but only if they were high-quality material.

He added:“As we said in our recent Quality First Report, each part of the supply chain needs to do their bit to improve quality.

“This includes everyone from manufacturers and retailers making their products more recyclable, local authorities need to ensure their collections are designed for quality, while the recycling and waste sector should ensure we don’t export rubbish but high-quality materials ready for manufacturing.”


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