Malaysia vows to return 3,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:
Shipping containers have been found in Malaysia with mislabelled plastic and non-recyclable waste

Malaysia will return 3,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste to the countries that shipped it, including the UK.

Shipping containers have been found at Port Klang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, with mislabelled plastic and non-recyclable waste such as household and WEEE.

The country’s environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said the waste is being sent back to avoid Malaysia becoming a dumping ground for rich nations.

She 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.

At least 14 countries were identified to have exported the contaminated rubbish including the United States, Japan, France and Australia.

Yeo has now urged the nations to review their management of plastic waste.

Simon Ellin, The Recycling Association’s chief executive, said the UK should not let a minority of companies undermine the legitimate trade of recyclable material.

"Malaysia, and other countries, are right to crack down on illegal imports. But we should also recognise that international trade of secondary commodities benefits all parts of the manufacturing supply chain, and legitimate exporters of a high-quality product should not be blamed for the actions of a minority.”

“With the government proposing a plastic tax on any plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content, we will need to ensure there is global trade of recyclable materials so that manufacturers can import products with this recycled plastic content.”

A Greenpeace report published in October 2018 found plastic packaging from everyday British products sent for recycling was found discarded at illegal dump sites in Malaysia.

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.

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