Malaysia issues warning to plastic smugglers

Malaysian Government Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin has announced a government investigation into illegal plastic waste imports.

According to Ms Yin, the investigation follows a two-week inspection period where 111 shipping containers full of plastic were found disguised as other goods.

Ms Yin has warned smugglers that Malaysia will not hesitate to send falsely declared plastic waste back to its country of origin.

Ms Yin’s announcement follows a 60 Minutes report that claimed 71,000 tonnes of Australian recyclable plastic had been exported to Malaysia and processed at illegal facilities.

While the Australian waste management industry rejected many of the claims made by 60 Minutes, the glut of specific kinds of plastic waste with no end destination is a global hot button issue.

Malaysia saw an influx of plastic imports after China’s 2018 crackdown on contamination, with data from UK HM Revenue and Customs, a non-ministerial department responsible for tax collection, showing UK plastic waste exports to Malaysia tripled in the four months following the contamination ban.

Earlier this year, India similarly issued a total ban on solid plastic imports.

Ms Yin said Malaysia would need the support of international government’s to stop the trade of illegal plastics.

“This operation is to avoid Malaysia becoming full of dirty plastic waste from other countries especially developed countries,” Ms Yin said.

“The Department of Environment, in collaboration with other government agencies, will continue to enforce the interests of the environment and the wellbeing of the people of Malaysia.”

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India bans solid plastic imports

India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has announced changes to hazardous waste laws, reversing exemptions from its 2016 ban on solid plastic imports.

Under previous laws, companies in designated economic development areas were exempt from the ban.

The change comes after the country saw an increase in waste imports as a result of the market vacuum generated by China’s National Sword policy.

The export oriented units clause, which gave local governments the ability to procure resources from abroad, has also been removed.

The ministry said changes were made in accordance with the ‘Make in India initiative’ by simplifying procedures and upholding principals of sustainable development and lessened environmental impact.

The ‘Make in India’ initiative was launched in 2014 with the goal of making India a sustainable global manufacturing hub.

The change follows India’s commitment to phase out single-use plastics by 2022.

Some of the features of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019, include prohibiting solid plastic was from being imported into the country, including in special economic zones and by export orientated units.

Electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

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