Malaysia sends back plastic waste

The Malaysian Environment Ministry has announced it will ship 450 metric tonnes of illegally imported and contaminated plastic waste back to countries of origin, including Australian material.

The waste, found during container inspections, originates from Australia, the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and Bangladesh.

According to a 28 May Environment Ministry statement, once all containers are fully inspected, an estimated 3000 metric tonnes will be shipped back to origin countries.

“These containers are filled with contaminated, non-homogeneous, low quality, non-recyclable plastic waste, and are routed to processing facilities which do not have the technology to recycle in an environmentally sound manner. This practice is against the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” the statement reads.

To date, the ministry has inspected 123 containers from countries including the UK, The United States, Japan, China, Spain, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Bangladesh and Norway.

“The laborious and costly inspection process was necessary to identify the content of the containers and its exporting country – the inspection process is on-going,” the statement reads.

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Malaysia would continue to weed out international imports.

“These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declarations and other offences, which clearly violates our environmental law,” Ms Yin said.

“Garbage is traded under the pretext of recycling and Malaysians are forced to suffer poor air quality due to open burning of plastics which leads to health hazards, polluted rivers, illegal landfills and a host of other related problems. We view the perpetrators of this act as traitors to the country’s sustainability and therefore they should be stopped and brought to justice.”

As party to the Basel Convention Malaysia imposes strict requirements on the importation of mixed plastic waste, in an effort to regulate trade and transboundary movements.

“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries,” Ms Yin said.

“We will compile these recycling companies names and send to the respective government for further investigation.”

Related stories:

Indonesia announces 100 per cent paper inspection rate

As of 1 April, all scrap paper imported to Indonesia must be inspected prior to shipment, according to a letter sent to exporters by Indonesian inspection agency Sucofindo.

Head of Sucofindo Andre Esfandiari said Indonesian Customs found discrepancies in scrap paper imports at the Tanjung Emas Surabaya port— causing them to declare the previous inspection standard of 10 per cent unacceptable.

In addition, two per cent of total shipment bales will be inspected to ensure imports meet the maximum impurity limit of 0.5 per cent.

A 100 per cent inspection rate already applies to steel and plastic scrap.

The decision follows similar restrictions in China and India, with China announcing plans to eliminate solid waste imports by 2020 and India banning solid plastic imports entirely.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Indonesia is Australia’s second-largest waste destination, taking 19 per cent of total waste exports.

New regulations will remain in place until the Ministry of Trade releases formal technical guidelines.

Related stories:

China to eliminate solid waste imports

China has announced plans to completely eliminate solid waste imports by 2020, according to a recent Reuters report.

Starting in July, China will no longer accept imports of scrap steel, copper or aluminium, with the veto extended to scrap stainless steel and titanium by the end of 2019.

Director of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s solid waste division Qiu Qiwen reportedly said at a briefing that the ban aims to block the import of waste products that can be sourced domestically.

According to Reuters, since the 1980’s China has taken in hundreds of millions of tonnes of foreign paper, plastic, electronic waste and scrap metal for recycling.

Beijing began restricting deliveries last year, with customs authorities launching a series of crackdowns on waste smuggling, leading to hundreds of arrests.

Earlier this year India similarly announced a ban on solid plastic imports, after the country saw a drastic increase in waste imports as a result of the market vacuum generated by China’s National Sword policy.

China faces a solid waste treatment backlog of an estimated 60-70 billion tonnes, placing the country under significant pressure to boost its domestic recycling capacity.

Mr Qiwen said China imported 22.6 million tonnes of solid waste last year— down 47 per cent from the previous year.

“If solid waste meets the requirements of China’s import standards and doesn’t contain any hazards, then it can be treated as common commodities, not waste,” Mr Qiwen said.

The announcement follows the January launch of the “waste-free cities” scheme, which aims to boost recycling and encourage the development of alternatives to landfill.

Under the scheme 10 cities will be selected for the first phase, with measures to include better sorting of solid waste, improvements in urban planning and the construction of new treatment facilities.

Related stories:

X