Malaysia: Checks show dirty plastic still being smuggled into Malaysian ports

Khairul Azran Hussin New Straits Times 23 Apr 19;

PORT KLANG: The smuggling of contaminated plastic waste into the country is still ongoing, even though the government has banned the import of such materials last year.

The smuggling activities were unearthed following the discovery of 24 cargo containers at West Port, containing contaminated plastic waste which could no longer be recycled.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the discovery has exposed elements of abuse of power among certain quarters within the nation’s ports.

“All the 24 containers were declared as having ‘clean’ waste. However, further checks showed that they contained prohibited material. We also received reports of containers bearing contaminated plastic waste in North Port as well as in Penang.

“This month, the authorities will conduct operations at all ports nationwide. We are serious in our aim to tackle this issue. We have already identified the import company.

“We are also concerned as to how these containers could make its way so easily into our ports. If there is foul play involved, we will take action against all those involved,” she told reporters after conducting checks at West Port here on Tuesday.

Yeo said preliminary checks showed that all the contaminated plastic waste would be sent to illegal recycling plants throughout the country.

“This is dirty, low-quality plastic. This is the type of plastic which cannot be disposed off so easily. If burnt, it emits black smoke.”

Asked if the government would be asking the urging the countries of origin to take back the plastic waste seized in Malaysian ports, Yeo said the government will rely on the Basel Convention.

“Malaysia was a signatory of the Basel Convention, touching on cross-border control of the disposal of toxic and dangerous material. So, we can compel the countries of origin to take back the waste and also bear all the cost.

“For example, the container detected today came from Spain. Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Germany also send their waste to Malaysia,” she said.

Yeo added that 148 illegal plastic recycling plants nationwide, including those which failed to comply with the Environmental Quality Act 1974, were shut down from January to date.

Last October, the government ended the issuance of import licences for plastic waste.

Smugglers pay a lot to dump plastic waste
clarissa chung, rahimy rahim, and rashvinjeet s. bedi The Star 24 Apr 19;

PETALING JAYA: Tonnes of plastic waste from overseas are quickly ferried to secluded areas where the trash is burnt in makeshift illegal factories, and this is big business, claimed pro-green activist Pua Lay Pheng.

The Kuala Langat Environmental Action Association secretary constantly receives information that international smugglers pay a huge amount of money to ferry plastic waste to illegal waste disposal factories, including those in her area of Jenjarom in Selangor.

She has been at the forefront of highlighting the issue for over two years.

“We found that we were surrounded by illegal plastic waste recycling factories, but initially, Port Klang, West Port and Telok Gong were the centres of this type of factories.

“It (the activity) is focused in coastal areas, especially near ports,” she said yesterday.

She claimed that the international syndicates would pay from RM2,000 to more than RM6,000 to have the waste brought to various places.

“All their targets are near Chinese villages with industrial and plantation areas that have cheap rentals,” she added.

Pua said residents had complained about the fumes emitting from these illegal factories.

“After 10pm, they start to operate and white fumes would be discharged.

“Many complained of coughs, allergic reactions, lethargy and some admitted to hospital,” she said.

She claimed that some of the illegal factories had their own incinerators and would simply burn the plastic waste.

She added that plastic that could not be recycled would be dumped in the rivers.

“I know it’s very hard to monitor, but we need stricter enforcement.

“The real question is, who will be responsible for all this? Many of our activist friends have lodged reports with the authorities,” she said.

When trash is cash
clarissa chung, rahimy rahim, and rashvinjeet s. bedi The Star 24 Apr 19;

KLANG: Anybody who doubts that trash is cash is ignoring the fact that Malaysia’s plastic waste crisis is far from over despite an ongoing crackdown on the illegal processing of this waste.

It is believed that the plastic waste keeps finding its way to our shores because global syndicates are making lots of money by using our country as a junkyard.

Energy, Science, Technology, Env­i­ronment and Climate Change Mini­ster Yeo Bee Yin said the government intended to cut off illegal plastic imports at the points of entry.

“We need to stop (the waste) at the ports. We believe that there are syndicates making huge profits from importing such waste from developed countries,” she said.

At the end of April, she said, Malaysian representatives would be sent to the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention to speak out against this problem.

“These representatives will air these problems and we hope to tackle these syndicates with other countries,” she added.

The Basel Convention is an international treaty aimed at reducing the movement of hazardous waste between countries.

Yeo said findings from an investigation found that plastic waste was still being smuggled into Malaysia from developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Germany.

“They are falsely declaring it as (HS Code) 3920 plastics, which doesn’t need a permit and can enter the country,” she said.

The HS (Harmonised System) Code is a coding system to classify products when they are declared at the customs checkpoints.

Some 111 containers with contaminated plastic unfit for recycling remain unclaimed at Westports in Port Klang. There are another 18 in nearby Northport.

Yeo added that her ministry would be going “full force” to clamp down on those responsible for illegal plastic waste imports over the next month.

She warned forwarding agencies to be extra careful with clients importing plastics, adding that the government had the right to revoke the agencies’ licences if their clients made false customs declarations.

The forwarding companies, she said, had the right to open up the containers should they have suspicions about the contents.

Yeo also added that to date, 148 plastic waste factories had been shut down.

In the meantime, she said, exporters of such plastic waste would be told to take back their waste in about three months’ time as specified under the Basel Convention.

“Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world.

“Exporters, forwarding companies – they have to send back (the waste) to the countries of origin,” she said, adding that they would be the ones bearing the cost of sending back the waste.

The authorities had aimed to shut down all illegal plastic waste recycling factories nationwide by July.

This goal was set after the government surpassed the initial target of closing at least 100 such premises before the first quarter of the year.

Illegal plastic waste became a cause of concern among Malaysians when a 2018 joint investigation into plastic recycling factories in Kuala Langat by Greenpeace Malaysia and the Kuala Langat Environmental Protection Association found that Malaysia took in plastic waste from at least 19 countries.The report said that between January and July, Malaysia imported 754,000 tonnes of plastic valued at RM483mil.

According to Greenpeace, only 9% of the plastic waste are clean plastic that can be recycled.