Shipping containers filled with plastic waste are sent back to countries including Britain and the US after Malaysia declares ‘we are not the world’s garbage dump’
- Malaysia’s government today ordered 3,737 metric tonnes of trash be returned
- It has been flooded with plastic from more developed economies since 2018
- China used to do the world’s recycling, but banned waste imports two years ago
Shipping containers crammed with plastic rubbish have been sent back by Malaysia to Western countries after the Southeast Asian state declared it was ‘not the world’s garbage dump’.
Fed up with the relentless stream of waste being offloaded by nations such as Britain and the US, Malaysia’s government today said that 3,737 metric tonnes of trash be returned.
Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said 150 containers were sent to 13 countries, with 43 returned to France, 42 to Britain, 17 to the US and 11 to Canada.
The region has been flooded with plastic from more developed economies since 2018, after China – which previously boasted a massive recycling industry – ordered a halt to most imports.
Containers at a port in Butterworth, Malaysia, where some of the 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic rubbish are being sent back to Western nations such as Britain, France and the US
Malaysia has been flooded with plastic from more developed economies since 2018, after China – which previously boasted a massive recycling industry – ordered a halt to most imports (pictured: file photo of waste from Australia in Port Klang, Malaysia)
Many Chinese recycling businesses moved to Malaysia after the ban took effect, leading to huge quantities of plastic being shipped in without permits and flooding small communities.
It is unclear what will happen to the rubbish on return to the UK, but it is likely the containers will be sent abroad again.
Britain exports two-thirds of its waste and, although Malaysia has turned away the country’s rubbish, there are plenty of other recycling hubs such as Poland and Indonesia.
Malaysian officials hope to send back another 110 containers in the near future, 60 of which came from the US.
Authorities ‘will take the necessary steps to ensure that Malaysia does not become the garbage dump of the world’, Yeo Bee Yin added.
The environment ministry ‘will continue to wage war against pollution, including plastic waste’, she told reporters in the northern city of Butterworth, home to a major port from where some containers were sent back.
Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin (speaking in Butterworth today) said 150 containers were sent to 13 countries, with 43 returned to France, 42 to Britain, 17 to the US and 11 to Canada
Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin (front, second from left) inspects a shipping crate containing plastic rubbish today
The exporting countries and shipping lines footed the cost of returning the containers.
The minister said: ‘We don’t want to pay a single cent.
‘People dump their rubbish into your country, we are not supposed to pay them to send it back.’
Several Southeast Asian countries have sent back unwanted waste in recent months. Indonesia has returned hundreds of containers to their countries of origin and the Philippines returned a huge shipment of garbage to Canada.
China to ban plastic bags and straws in cities
China will ban non-degradable plastic bags in major cities and single-use straws from restaurants by the end of this year in a bid to cut down on waste.
The country is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic, and the plan targets a 30 percent reduction in non-degradable, disposable tableware for takeout in major cities within five years.
In a document released Sunday, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the production and sale of disposable foam and plastic tableware will be banned by the end of the year.
The plan also outlaws non-degradable, single-use straws in the catering industry this year, while disposable plastic products should not be “actively provided” by hotels by 2022.
By 2025, the authorities said they planned to effectively control plastic pollution and cut the amount of waste in landfills of key cities, on top of setting up a management system.
The bid to contain pollution comes as decades of rapid development and a drive for convenience have created huge levels of waste.
China produced 210 million tonnes of trash in 2017, according to World Bank figures, which warns that could soar to 500 million tonnes annually by 2030.
The targets extend to plastic packaging used in postal services as well.
Postal delivery outlets in areas such as Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu will ban the use of non-degradable plastic packaging bags and disposable plastic woven bags by the end of 2022.
More than 2.3 billion parcels were shipped in the aftermath of last year’s massive shopping festival Singles Day, according to China’s postal authority.