Plastic waste from the UK is being smuggled into Malaysia

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Former Malaysian Minister Yeo Bee Yin inspecting shipping containers

Plastic waste is being smuggled into Malaysia using shipping containers that are being falsely declared as another type of import that does not require a permit, according to the country’s Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin.  

A two-week investigation found that plastic waste is being smuggled in from developed countries including the UK, USA, Australia and Germany. 


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The Minister said: “We have found that there are containers which have contaminated plastics, but it is being declared that they are not (HS Code) 3915 plastics. They are falsely declaring it as (HS Code) 3920 plastics, where they don’t need a permit and can enter the country straightaway.” 

HS (harmonised system) code is a coding system that classifies products when they are declared at the customs checkpoints. 

The 3915 code refers to plastic waste, paring and scrap, while the 3920 code refers to other plates, sheets, film and foil strips. 

“We want to focus on the source of the illegal plastic imports. We need to stop it at the ports, and we believe that there are syndicates who are making lucrative profits from importing such waste from developed countries” said the Minister.  

She added that her Ministry will be using “full-force” in order to clamp down on those responsible for illegal plastic waste imports over the next month.  

Warnings to forwarding agencies to be wary of clients who are importing plastics have been sent out, adding that the Government has the right to revoke their licenses if their clients make false statements.  

Exporters of such plastic waste will be told to take back their waste in about three months’ time as specified under the Basel Convention.  

The Minister said: “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world. We will send back the waste to the original countries.” 

The waste will be shipped back, but not at the Malaysian Government’s expense, as the Basel Convention is aimed at reducing the movement of hazardous waste between countries.  

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