BUTTERWORTH, Penang: Two hundred and sixty-five containers of plastic waste brought into Penang have been left abandoned at the North Butterworth Container Terminal since January this year, the Penang Customs Department said on Thursday (May 30).
Director Saidi Ismail said that 149 of the containers were declared as recycled materials while no declaration was made for the remaining ones, which lack import licences.
“An inspection by customs found most of them contained waste and most of them were from developed countries such as Hong Kong, Canada, Belgium, Germany as well as the United States. We believe they were imported as recycling materials,” he told Bernama.
The unclaimed containers have caused congestion at the North Butterworth Container Terminal, Saidi Ismail said, adding that the Customs Department had to resort to renting open space to store excess containers.
The Malaysian government has spent more than RM5 million in its efforts to maintain the unclaimed containers, including storage space charges, he said.
READ: Malaysia to return 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste to countries of origin, says importers are ‘traitors’
State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said that 11 companies were involved in this illegal activity, according to the container's shipping manifests.
“Some 130 containers are facing a compound of RM1,000 each while efforts to check the other containers are still going,” he said.
These illegal operators typically fill the front of the container with recycling materials, hiding illegal waste such as plastics at the back to escape detection by the authorities, Mr Phee explained.
The state government is awaiting direction from Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin for their next move.
On Tuesday, Ms Yeo said that as much as 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste would be sent back to their origin countries, adding that those who imported the trash illegally were “traitors”.
She also spoke of the mandate given by the Cabinet, which allows her ministry to set up a special team involving various agencies to investigate the smuggling of plastic waste into Malaysia.