Malaysia to send illegally imported contaminated plastic waste back to the UK

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Yeo Bee Yin
Former Malaysian Minister for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate change Yeo Bee Yin inspecting opened plastic containers

Malaysia will be sending back 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste imported illegally from countries including the UK, US and China, said the country’s Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin.  

She said that the plastic waste contained in 10 containers will be shipped back to their original destination and has labelled the Malaysians responsible for bringing the plastic waste in as “traitors to the country”.  

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The Minister added: “Malaysia won’t continue to be a dumping ground for the developed nations and those responsible for destroying our ecosystem with these illegal activities are traitors. We view the perpetrators of this act as traitors to the country’s sustainability and therefore they should be stopped and brought to justice. Meanwhile we will send these 10 containers back to where it came from today.” 

She provided an example of how people in developed countries are conscious of recycling but have “no clue” where low quality non-recyclable plastic waste ends up after being disposed. 

“Developed countries like the UK always prioritise recycling and its people follow suit, but they do not realise these wastes are dumped in our country. For example, we know about one company in UK that sends waste to Malaysia and this company is responsible for 1,000 containers or roughly 50,000 metric tons of plastic waste. 

“This practice is unfair and uncivilised, which is why we urge developed countries to re-evaluate their waste disposal methods and stop shipping garbage to other countries. If they continue to ship garbage here, we will not hesitate to return it back.” 

The Malaysian Ministry, with the help of the Department of Environment, police, Customs Department and Port Klang Authority, are still investigating the local waste importers, but urged that in order for change to happen, they must have cooperation from developed countries. 

Regarding the “traitors”, the Minister said they will pay the costs of returning the waste to the country of origin, and the firms who brought the waste to Malaysia will have 14 days to answer the allegations and will have to pay for the storage and shipping costs. 

“Failure to do so could result in the government confiscating their land and legal action. We are also in the process of compiling a list of these so-called recycling companies from abroad and will send this list to the respective governments for them to take action.” 

During the visit to Port Klang, the media saw nine containers labelled Australia, UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Bangladesh, USA and two from China. 

These containers were opened for the press to inspect its contents, with a container from China having waste from France in it, while a container from Bangladesh had compact discs hidden behind clean recyclable items at the front of the container.  

The Malaysian Minister explained that from now on, any waste coming into the country illegally is against the Environment Quality Act (EQA) 1974. 

“As a party to the Basel Convention, Malaysia imposes strict requirements in line with the Article 4(11) of the Convention for all importation of mixed plastic waste to ensure that any transboundary movements are conducted in a manner which will protect human health and the environment.” 

By the end of the year, a total of 3,000 metric tonnes of waste from 50 containers worth of waste will be shipped back once inspections are complete.  

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