Malaysia will return almost 3,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste to countries that had shipped it, the nation’s environment minister said on Tuesday, AFP reported.
“Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world,” Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister of energy, technology, science, environment and climate change said. “We cannot be bullied by the developed countries.”
Plastic imports to Malaysia have tripled since 2016, to 8,70,000 tonnes last year, official data showed. A Greenpeace report recently found that Malaysia is the new dumping site for plastic ‘recycling’ from more than 19 countries.
China, which had earlier taken in large amounts of plastic for recycling, banned its imports last year, saying it wanted to improve its own environment. Some Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia had stepped in to fill this gap, but they are now beginning to back away.
“We urge developed countries to stop shipping garbage to our country,” Yeo said, adding that it was unfair and uncivilised. “We will return it back to the country of origin without any mercy,” Yeo said, after inspecting several waste-filled containers at Port Klang, on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur.
Officials in Malaysia have identified at least 14 origin countries, including the United States, Japan, France, Canada, Australia and Britain, for its unwanted waste, Reuters reported.
Lee Chee Kwang, an activist with Environment Protection Agency Kuala Langat, told AFP that this move was “only a symbolic public stunt which does not solve the problem.” He said the final solution is to ban imports of all kinds of plastic.
Calling Malaysians involved in importing the waste as “traitors”, she said, “We are urging developed nations to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage to developing countries.”
Last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada. In a diplomatic row that saw Duterte recall his ambassador to Ottawa, Canada agreed to take back tons of garbage shipped to the Philippines years ago.