Illegal Chinese plastic recycling sites and corrupt officials have been blamed by Malaysian plastic recyclers for the three month ban on importing plastics into the country.
According to a report in the Malay Mail newspaper, illegal Chinese plastic recycling companies were set up in Malaysia that were able to bypass the country’s environmental laws and regulations.
The suspicion is that this was done as a result of bribing of high-level officials.
Inspections undertaken by officials from the state of Selangor in Malaysia found that of 35 plastic recycling facilities viewed, just three were licensed.
The newspaper quotes an anonymous Malaysian plastic recycler who believed that both Government and state officials had been bribed to enable these facilities to operate illegally.
This recycler said: “The major problem about plastic recycling is not so much coming from local companies, but mostly from illegal Chinese recycling plants that set up shop here.
“The question is, how were they allowed to set up shop here? Corruption? Most likely.”
In particular, Malaysia has seen plastic imports rise substantially after China banned plastic imports at the end of 2017. As data from REB Market Intelligence shows, Malaysia has been the dominant purchaser of UK material since September 2017 – shortly after the China ban was announced.
Malaysia officials believe these Chinese companies have set up these illegal recycling sites and then bypassed laws on what can be imported into the country. They have bought loads of plastic, primarily from the UK, then separated what can and can’t be recycled.
An industry source told the Malay Mail: “What they do is they hire private contractors or trucks and just dump all the excess waste in our landfills or just dig a hole and burn it to hide them.”
Indeed, the Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar told the Malay Mail that he too believed lax enforcement had been made possible by corruption.
He added: “It is shocking to find that Malaysia is one of the destinations for plastic waste and I think it is happening because the Department for Housing and Local Government has given out too many APs [import and operating licences].
“I have brought this up with the Cabinet and I have instructed my ministry to come out with a list of APs given to whom and so APs to import plastic waste coming into the country can be stopped.”
State executive councillor in charge of local authorities Ng Sze Han said that many of the plants were granted APs by the Barisan National Government (the previous coalition ruling Malaysia prior to the general election held this year – it had ruled since 1957) and he implied that these had been issued following corruption.
Indeed, he revealed that representatives from the plants had attempted to bribe him at a meeting held before the illegal plants were raided.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said that the Malaysian Government was introducing new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and regulations for the application of solid waste import licenses. The existing 114 licenses that had been suspended had now been revoked.
She said: “The license holders need to reapply for the license and meet the new SOP and crtieria to ensure that there will be no violation of standards and regulations.”