Malaysia returns tons of plastic scrap to exporting countries

Malaysia returns tons of plastic scrap to exporting countries

Southeast Asian country sends containers of nonrecyclables back to U.K., U.S., Canada and other nations.


Malaysia will send back 3,000 tons of “contaminated” plastic scrap to exporting countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and China. The announcement was made by Malaysian Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin during a press conference in late May.

The country will return 450 tons of plastic scrap from 10 containers “immediately” and the remaining 50 containers, which were “illegally” imported, will be shipped back to the place of origin once they are fully inspected, Yin said.

“The laborious and costly inspection process was necessary to identify containers and its exporting country,” she said.

Port Klang, Malaysia, has inspected 123 containers originating from the U.S., U.K., Japan, China, Spain, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Norway and France. The ongoing investigation uncovered a U.K.-based recycling firm that has exported more than 50,000 tons of plastic scrap in 1,000 containers to Malaysia over the past two years. Yin said the government is compiling and will release a list of recycling companies in different countries that are “dumping” scrap in Malaysia.

Yin said the containers are being declared as containing recyclable plastic; however, inspections from Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries have revealed the contents of the containers include household and electronic scrap. The Philippine government also is shipping back dozens of containers of what it considers non-recyclable materials that were shipped to the country from Canada between 2013 and 2014.

“What the citizens of the U.K. believe they send for recycling is actually being dumped in our country,” Yin said. “Now we know that garbage is traded under the pretext of recycling.”

Yin called the Malaysian companies who are illegally importing to the country “traitors to the country’s sustainability.”

“Malaysians and [people in] other developing countries have a right to clean air, clean water, sustainable resources and a clean environment to live in just like citizens of developed nations,” she said. “That is why we urge the developed countries to also review their management of plastic [scrap] and stop shipping garbage out to the developing countries. If they are shipped to Malaysia, we will return it back without mercy.”