Kudos to Malaysia for wanting to send about 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste back to the countries it came from!
Malaysia last year became the world’s main destination for plastic waste after China banned its import, disrupting the flow of more than seven million tonnes of rubbish a year.
Dozens of recycling factories have cropped up in Malaysia, many without operating licences, and communities have complained of environmental problems.
And now the Minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Environment and Climate Change, Yeo Bee Yin, says 60 containers of waste imported illegally would be sent back.
“These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declaration and other offences, which clearly violates our environmental law,” said the minister.
Malaysian officials have identified at least 14 origin countries – including the US, Japan, France, Canada, Australia, Spain and the UK – for the unwanted waste.
Five containers of contaminated plastic waste have already been sent back to Spain.
Plastic unsuitable for recycling is burnt, which releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.
At times it ends up in a landfill, which can contaminate soil and water sources.
The European Union is the largest collective exporter of plastic waste, while the US leads as the top exporter for a single country.
But only a tiny fraction of all the plastics ever produced have been recycled.
Many wealthy countries send their recyclable waste overseas because it’s cheap, helps meet recycling targets and reduces domestic landfill.
For developing countries taking in the rubbish, it’s a valuable source of income.
However, it seems wealthy countries are not playing fair by sending their non-recyclable waste.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of waste back to Canada – and leave them within Canada’s territorial waters if it refuses to accept them.
Canada says the waste was exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014 in a commercial transaction, which did not have government consent.
Last year, Poland announced tougher rules after multiple fires at waste dumps.
It linked an increase in illegal rubbish imports to the China ban, which came into effect last year.
Due to concerns about contamination and pollution, China declared it would no longer buy recycled plastic scrap that was not 99.5 per cent pure – causing global plastic waste exports to fall.
Plastic waste was diverted to other countries, namely Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, India and Poland.
Thailand has also prohibited plastic waste imports and plans to implement a full ban by 2021.
Vietnam is no longer issuing new licences and will bar all imports of plastic scrap by 2025.
Taiwan says it will only import single source plastic waste, while India has expanded its ban on solid plastic waste imports.
I am loving this!
I’m so glad that a growing number of countries are taking a stand.
Reem Antoon is a former GDN news editor. She can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org