Malaysia has sent back 150 containers of unwanted waste to 13 countries, angrily taking aim at exporters which are violating its ban on plastic waste that was first implemented in 2018.
Environment minister, Yeo Bee Yin, said: “If there are people who would like to see this [country] as the rubbish dumping site of the world, you dream on.
“For Malaysia, we do not want to pay a single cent because it is not about money, it’s about dignity right? So people dump their rubbish into your country, you are not supposed to pay them to send it back. You are supposed to let them send it back by themselves.”
Since China banned imports of plastic waste in 2018 Malaysia has seen a sharp rise in foreign plastic waste, importing around 831,000 tonnes between January and July 2018.
The 3,737 metric tonnes came from countries including France, the UK, the US and Canada, with suspicions in the container transport sector that cargo misdeclaration might be occurring.
An industry source told CM: “Issues concerning waste have been present for a number of years – and governed under the Basle Convention. What has changed more recently is a much reduced tolerance for importing nations to become ‘dustbins’.
“It is likely that many shippers will be relatively uninformed about what constitutes waste and the detailed legal requirements. Hence, the likelihood of inadvertent misdeclaration is high – and some will almost certainly be criminally motivated.”
Of the 150 containers to be sent back, 43 will be sent to France, 42 to the UK, 17 to the US and 11 to Canada and authorities hope to send another 110 containers by the middle of 2020, of which 60 are destined for the US.
The government of Malaysia does not plan to incur any costs from this as it has said that the cost is to be borne either by the countries themselves or the shipping liners.
Yeo added: “The repatriation exercise does not incur any costs to the government of Malaysia – the costs were either borne by the exporters or the shipping liners. This is an unprecedented move by Malaysia. We would like people to be responsible for their actions and they should be paying for the logistics. “