Malaysia to send back plastic waste to Canada, other foreign nations

Pablo Tucker
May 29, 2019

Malaysia will send back some 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as Australia, the United States, the UK and Canada to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations.

Yesterday, nine shipping containers at Port Klang, west of Kuala Lumpur, were found to contain mislabelled plastic and non-recyclable waste, including a mixture of household and e-waste.

"We urge developed countries to stop shipping garbage to our country", Yeo said, adding that it was unfair and uncivilised.

Malaysia will send back nearly 3,000 metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom in a move to avoid becoming a "dumping ground" for rich nations.

A recycling company based in Britain had exported as much as 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste to Malaysia in the past two years, she said, without identifying the firm. Some Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia had stepped in to fill this gap, but they are now beginning to back away.

After Duterte said he was prepared to "declare war" on Canada over the issue, the Canadian government said it would cover the full cost of the return operation and pledged that the garbage will be brought back before the end of June.

Yeo told a press conference that one United Kingdom recycling company had exported more than 50,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers over the past two years.

It also follows the discovery of several containers of wastes from Australia and Hong Kong at a port in Mindanao. "Even though we are a small country, we can't be bullied by developed countries".

The Malaysian Government has clamped down on dozens of illegal plastic recycling facilities that had mushroomed across the country, shutting more than 150 plants since July.

The build-up of waste and the creation of a major illegal recycling industry in the country are a knock-on effect of China's ban on the importation of plastic waste earlier this year.

Last week, Duterte upped the ante, threatening to cut diplomatic ties with Canada if Ottawa did not take back the 1,500 tons of waste.

"The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by a foreign nation", said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.

In Port Klang, Yeo said citizens in rich nations diligently separate their waste for recycling, but the garbage ended up being dumped in developing nations where they are recycled illegally, causing environmental and health hazards, she said.

"Governments in Asia, which has become the world's new dumpsite, must strictly guard their territories against waste smuggling from richer countries", she said.

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