KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will send as much as 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste back to their origin countries, the environment minister said on Tuesday (May 28), adding that those who imported the trash illegally were “traitors”.
Ms Yeo Bee Yin, the Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, said 60 containers of trash that had been imported illegally would be sent back.
"These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declaration and other offences which clearly violate our environmental law," she told reporters after inspecting the containers at Port Klang.
She said that the blame should be shared between the exporters and their partners in Malaysia.
"Every container (imported) will have its local player here ... otherwise they cannot export it here; that was why I said they are traitors."
The minister said she could not disclose how many local companies were involved as it was still under investigation. However, she said all perpetrators would be brought to justice.
Malaysia last year became the world's main destination for plastic waste after China banned its import, disrupting the flow of more than 7 million tonnes of the trash a year.
Dozens of recycling factories have cropped up in Malaysia, many without operating licences, and communities have complained of environmental problems.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept them.
Canada said the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction done without government consent.
Last month, Ms Yeo said the authorities found shipping containers with waste falsely declared as 3920 plastic - which does not require an import permit - while in reality containing 3915 plastic.
Under the Harmonised System for the classification of goods, the 3920 code refers to plastic plates, sheets, film and foil strips, while 3915 refers to plastic waste, parings and scrap.
Approved permits are needed for the import of 3915 plastic into Malaysia.
Malaysian officials have identified at least 14 origin countries, including Bangladesh, the United States, Japan, France, Canada, Australia and Britain.
IMPORTED WASTE FROM BOTH DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
At Port Klang, compact discs were found hidden inside a container filled with clean recyclable plastic material. The country of origin for that particular container was Bangladesh.
"I was very shocked. In front was legal waste, while the illegal waste was placed behind it,” the minister was reported as saying by the Star.
Ms Yeo also noted that citizens of developed nations were largely unaware that their rubbish, which they think is being recycled, is instead mostly being dumped in Malaysia, where it is disposed of using environmentally harmful methods.
A recycling company based in Britain had exported as much as 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste to Malaysia in the past two years, she said, without identifying the firm.
She said Putrajaya would ask foreign governments to investigate such companies.
"We are urging developed nations to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage to developing countries," she said.
"If you ship to Malaysia, we will return it without mercy."
Malaysia has already returned five containers of contaminated plastic waste to Spain.
Earlier this month, about 180 countries agreed to amend the Basel Convention to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated.
The US, the world's top exporter of plastic waste, has not ratified the 30-year-old pact.