Malaysia to Return 42 Containers of Illegal Plastic Waste to U.K


Malaysia will return 42 containers of illegal plastic waste to the U.K., which has agreed to take them back, as the Southeast Asian nation continues its fight against becoming the world’s dumping ground for trash.

The containers, which arrived at Penang Port between March 2018 and March 2019, were classified as illegal because they failed to comply with the necessary paperwork, according to a joint statement by Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change and the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

Malaysia joins governments in Asia, including the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, which are pushing back against unwanted rubbish from overseas that has accumulated within their borders and led to illegal recycling, open burning, as well as illnesses tied to water and air pollution.

The agreement to repatriate the containers came after the U.K.’s environmental agency visited Malaysia in response to news of illegal plastic trash in the country, according to the statement.

“This co-operation signifies a recognition that plastic pollution is a global issue which requires commitment from various countries to address the problem,” said Malaysia’s Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin. “We hope the co-operation and understanding between Malaysia and the United Kingdom will set an example for other countries.”

Malaysia last year permanently banned imports of plastic scrap waste, and Yeo has vowed to send back garbage that had entered the country illegally.

Authorities and shipping agents are now working on repatriation of the trash. British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay said the step, in accordance with the Basel Convention, reflects the U.K.’s “commitment to fighting the illegal plastic waste trade”. The Commission is working with Malaysia on issues related to tackling plastic pollution and mitigating its use, environmental conservation and climate change.

UNEP is supporting Malaysia to address the illegal trade in plastics, through ongoing capacity-building and training. A workshop took place in Kuala Lumpur in August 2019 entitled ‘Strengthening institutional capacities to address the illegal trade in plastic waste’ to support the Government of Malaysia to address the issue. The workshop was co-organized by the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Customs Organization (WMO), together with UNEP. 

Through the Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards, UNEP also supports enforcement to prevent environmental crime, including illegal trade in plastic waste.


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