Malaysia: Illegal plastic recycling plants - 'Operators shifted to other states'

Dawn Chan New Straits Times 24 Feb 19;

SHAH ALAM: THE authorities are hot on the heels of illegal plastic recycling factory operators who have taken the move to “decentralise” their activities following a major crackdown in Selangor.

In the past year, numerous massive coordinated enforcement operations mounted by the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry (MESTECC) and joined by the local authorities, as well as about six to seven agencies, including Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) and the Department of Environment (DoE), have forced operators to shut down their illegal businesses in Selangor and move elsewhere.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said there was information that the illegal operators that imported plastic waste from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand had shifted their operations to other states throughout the country.

It is learnt that there are now such activities in Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Johor.

“This problem is most serious in Selangor, which is home to 60 per cent of illegal factories.

“It is the most severe compared with other states. This is because of the ports that provide easy access.

“These operators are moving elsewhere as we have closed down the illegal premises in Selangor.

“Wherever there is a port, you will have the import of plastic waste. We are working with the Kedah, Negri Sembilan and Johor governments to curb the existence of these illegal factories.

“We will cooperate with just about anybody to totally eliminate this.

“So in states where we have identified the illegal factories, we are working with the state governments on coordinated enforcement operations.

“Our idea is to close down 100 illegal factories by the first quarter of this year.

“The numbers are on the rise and we are very near to hitting our target,” Yeo told the New Sunday Times.

It was recently reported that more than 60 illegal factories operated in Selangor, Negri Sembilan (10), Kedah (10), Perak (7), Johor (6), Penang (2) and Kelantan (1).

On Jan 17, Yeo had said 64 illegal plastic recycling factories in Selangor had been closed down, while 39 cases were brought to court.

Out of the 39, three cases saw individuals fined a total of RM229,000, with one accused sentenced to a day’s jail.

Yeo said the problem started when China closed its doors on the importation of HS Code 3915 plastic waste, which saw developed countries sending it to Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, that led to the mushrooming of these illegal factories.

Yeo said the closing down of the illegal factories would not stop at 100, pledging that coordinated enforcement operations would continue even after the first quarter of this year.

She said once an illegal factory was identified and shut down, it was crucial that monitoring was carried out to ensure it remained closed.

“Not only that, we are trying to use the National Land Code to make it mandatory for land owners to remove and dispose of plastic waste from the properties in the right manner.

“Otherwise, we will confiscate their land. The landowners must get rid of the waste by giving it to a licensed landfill operator, a cement plant that can burn it or to whoever is willing to accept it.

“I am expecting that by mid-year or the third quarter of the year, we will be able to sort out the influx of plastic waste that came into the country from January to July last year. This was before the freeze on approved permits to import used plastic.

“We will be able to clear everything.

“Until July last year, we imported 750,000 tonnes of rubbish and right now, we are suffering the aftermath.”

In Selangor, shutting down illegal factories involves the local authorites issuing notices to TNB and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) to disconnect the utilities.

For TNB, which comes under Yeo’s purview, she said the electricity supply would be disconnected after seven days of the notice to deter the illegal factories from operating further.

The next step is to issue a notice to landowners which gives them a certain period to clear the waste. Otherwise, the land will be seized.

MESTECC, Yeo said, was working with the Selangor government to seize land from owners who did not comply with the directive.

She said this would start in Selangor before the strategy was used in other states nationwide.

Aside from working with state governments, Yeo said there would be joint ministerial cooperation with the Housing and Local Government Ministry (KPKT) to tackle the import of plastic waste.

“At the moment, we are coming out with a new policy on plastic scraps and we are finalising it together with KPKT. We will be strict and we are not going to accept any rubbish at all.”

She said after the illegal factories were shut down and the plastic waste cleared, MESTECC would beef up enforcement to ensure there were no more such activities and focus on strengthening cases that could be brought to court.

Engagements with small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as schools, would be carried out to create awareness of environmental sustainability.

Customs: Don't even think about releasing plastic waste shipments
Dawn Chan New Straits Times 25 Feb 19;

PORT KLANG: The Customs Department has issued a stern warning to shipping agents at seaports against releasing any containers bearing imported plastic waste.

The warning came about following the government's ban on the import of plastic waste, which took effect in July last year.

Customs director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy said his department will not release the containers for as long as one does not possess the approved permit (AP).

"If it is plastic waste, there is no way they will get the AP. We have issued a strict order to shipping agents not to unload plastic waste cargo.

“Anybody who is found to have wrongly declared the cargo, for instance if they bring in plastic waste and they declare it as ‘good plastic’ like polymers and resins, will have the forwarding agent licence revoked immediately.

"Those are the harsh steps we have taken to control the situation," Subromaniam told the New Straits Times.

Subromaniam said there are more than 100 containers of plastic waste which are currently stranded in Westports, here, due to the government crackdown.

Asked on the value of the containers, Subromiam said it was impossible to put a figure.

"This is rubbish. So how can we put a value to it?," he said.

He said his department would do all it takes to ensure no plastic waste would enter the country.

"We want to make sure that Malaysia is not being used as a dumping ground. We are going all out. We are working closely with the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change and National Solid Waste Department Management on this," added Subromaniam.

It was reported on Sunday that 120 containers, some of which have yet to be declared or were falsely declared, have been left stranded in Penang Port for months.

Penang Customs Department director Datuk Saidi Ismail described the situation as serious as they had no space to store the containers.

He said that a quick solution was needed.

Saidi said no declarations were made as the containers were awaiting the plastic waste AP.

Saidi was quoted as saying that the agents must first declare whether the containers are rubbish or plastic waste.

It has been left at the port here after the importers failed to produce the AP to bring in the items or have falsely declared the items as recycling waste when in fact it was rubbish, resulting in the authorities seizing the containers.

Investigations were underway with 16 investigation papers opened so far.

War on illegal plastic waste intensifies
Nur Aqidah Azizi New Straits Times 25 Feb 19;

SEREMBAN: A total of 44 illegal plastic recycling premises are expected to be charged in court soon, which will involve fines totalling RM3 million for various offences under the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

This follows a massive coordinated enforcement operation conducted by the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC) with the local authorities, to combat illegal plastic waste throughout the country.

Its minister, Yeo Bee Yin said, so far four cases had been brought to court with a total of RM389,000 fines imposed and one found guilty sentenced to a day’s jail.

“We will make them pay the price. If they want to make money, they will have to comply with the law.

“Some quarters feel that a day’s imprisonment is too light but we will make sure that all laws and clauses will be brought in to make sure that offenders will not be let off the hook easily,” she added.

Yeo said, as of February this year, a total of 139 premises had been shut down, exceeding the target set by the ministry to close down 100 illegal factories by the first quarter of the year.

“The operation started since July last year. From 274 premises inspected, 109 were illegal factories while the remaining numbers didn’t comply with environmental regulations.

“Although we have met the target, but we will not stop. Enforcement operations will be amplified,” she added.

"We have more than 400 licensed factories in the country. But having a valid licence doesn’t necessarily mean that they comply the law. We will make sure that operation will be conducted at least twice a year,” said Yeo.

She added, with a total of 750,000 tonnes of plastic waste brought into the country up to July last year, the ministry would not compromise with any plastic waste offences, in efforts to protect the environment.

“We hope that we will be able to clear the rubbish by the third quarter of the year. We will either use the National Land Code to make it mandatory for land owners to dispose plastic waste from their properties according to the environmental law, or we will confiscate their land.

“The waste can also be given to a licensed landfill operator or cement plant that can burn it, or we will have to clean it first but we will make sure to back charge the offenders. If they fail to pay, they will be dragged to court,” she said at a Press conference after conducting the Negri Sembilan special integrated task force operation here, today.

Three factories were raided in the operation which was joint by 90 officials from 13 agencies in the state, that include the state Department of Environment, National Solid Waste Management Department, Seremban Municipal Council, Nilai Municipal Council, Solid Waste Corporation Management, the Customs Department and the Royal Malaysia Police.

Of the three, two were illegal plastic recycling premises, while one had been found to have violated the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

From August last year, a total of 33 plastic recycling premises in the state had been inspected, 12 of which had been ordered to shut down operation for various offences, and nine found operating illegally.

A total of 22 written notices, three compounds and investigation papers as well as 13 equipment detention orders and one Prohibition Order had been issued.

Only two premises in the state have valid importation permit (AP) from the National Solid Waste Management Department.

Yeo said, the ministry would also extend the operation at seaports to curb the influx of plastic waste into the country.

Landowners clear plastic waste from their plots
Dawn Chan New Straits Times 26 Feb 19;

KUALA LANGAT: Twenty landowners who had rented their plots to illegal recycling plastic factories have swung into action to remove unwanted imported plastic waste from their plots as instructed by the Selangor government.

This came following fears that their plots, possibly worth millions of ringgit, would be seized by the state government if they failed to get rid of the imported plastic waste within a stipulated timeframe.

To date, 20 out of 33 landowners have removed the imported plastic waste, 13 more are racing against time to do so.

Checks on two illegal factories at the Jalan Gangsa Industrial Park and Jalan Segenting Batu 11 in Teluk Panglima Garang showed that tonnes of plastic waste which used to occupy the compounds of the illegal factories have been removed.

At the illegal factory located at Jalan Gangsa Industrial Park, the operator appeared to have completely seized its activities as no more machinery or jumbo plastic bags were seen and there were “For Sale/Rent” banners hung at its entrance.

The Jalan Segenting Batu 11 premises was devoid of any plastic waste and machinery.

Meanwhile, at an illegal factory in Jalan Segenting, Mukim Telok, no work seemed to have begun to remove the plastic waste.

At another illegal factory in Jalan Sungai Jarum in Jenjarom, a backhoe was spotted removing mountains of plastic waste.

The backhoe operator said he had been working on the site for several weeks now but he was tightlipped when asked where the plastic waste would be sent to.

Banting assemblyman Lau Weng San said landowners were adhering to the stern directive issued by the state government and the situation was progressing well.

He said landowners were left to their own devices, despite them pleading to the state government to be easy on them, or for him to extend his assistance.

“Some landowners have approached me for help. They want me to assist them to get leniency from the state government or allow them some leeway.

“But I told them to follow the law. They were hauled up and charged in court under the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and there is nothing much that I can do.

“They will have to engage the best lawyers to help them because the criminal charge was filed by the Attorney-General’s Chambers based on investigation papers prepared by the Department of Environment.

“So, the legal proceeding had already started and there is nothing much I can do to save them. The best thing to do is to engage lawyers to help them,” Lau told the New Straits Times.

He added that the landowners were not only charged in court but are also facing double or triple jeopardy as they risk being jailed or fined tens or hundreds of thousands of ringgit and for committing the offence of land abuse.

Lau also dismissed suggestions by certain quarters that the federal and state governments are not doing enough to tackle the problem.

“To claim that we have not done anything to eliminate the illegal factories is an understatement. We have jumped into action and done something to address the problem. Otherwise, the situation would have persisted, ” added Lau.

Selangor Local Government, Public Transportation and New Village Development executive councillor Ng Sze Han had earlier said that the state government was taking action against landowners through the National Land Code for the wrong usage of the land, which involved many agricultural plots that carried out industrial activities.

He said there were several stages to serving notices to land owners to clear the land and ensure that the plots go back to its status before a confiscation can be carried out.

He said Notice 7A of the National Land Code had been served to the landowners at the end of last year which instructs them to revert their plots to its original status.

They must also clear the land of the plastic waste within a stipulated period.

Failure to do so would see a reminder notice served under Notice 7B.

If nothing is done, Ng said they will issue Notice 8A, which enables the state government to seize the land.

He said the entire process from the issuance of Notice 7A to Notice 8A will take between six and 12 months.

Ng added that the state government will not extend the grace period given to revert the status and clear the plastic waste.