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Malaysia to return plastic waste to countries including UK

Ten containers will be shipped back within two weeks.

Officers from the Ministry of Environment examine a container full of non-recyclable plastic detained by authorities at the west port in Klang, Malaysia (Vincent Thian/AP)
Officers from the Ministry of Environment examine a container full of non-recyclable plastic detained by authorities at the west port in Klang, Malaysia (Vincent Thian/AP)

Malaysia has said it will send back some 3,000 metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia, in a move to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations.

Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said 60 containers stacked with contaminated waste had been smuggled into illegal processing facilities in Malaysia.

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Non-recyclable plastic detained by authorities at the west port in Klang, Malaysia (Vincent Thian/AP)

She said 10 containers will be shipped back within two weeks as she showed reporters contents of the waste at a port outside Kuala Lumpur.

The waste that was displayed included cables from the UK, contaminated milk cartons from Australia and compact discs from Bangladesh. Also shown were electronic and household waste from the US, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China.

Ms Yeo said Malaysia and many developing countries have become new targets after China banned the import of plastic waste last year.

Malaysia will not be a dumping ground Yeo Bee Yin, environment minister

“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg (due) to the banning of plastic waste by China,” she said.

“Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world… we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we can’t be bullied by developed countries.”

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Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin with waste from the UK (Vincent Thian/AP)

In one case alone, Ms Yeo said a UK recycling company exported more than 50,000 metric tons of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers to Malaysia over the past two years.

The government has clamped down on dozens of illegal plastic recycling facilities that had mushroomed across the country, shutting more than 150 plants since last July. Earlier this month, the government also sent back five containers of waste to Spain.

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Yeo Bee Yin with a container of plastic waste (Vincent Thian/AP)

Ms Yeo said China’s plastic waste ban had “opened up the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge rubbish and recycling problem”.

“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the rubbish out to the developing countries,” she said.

PA

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