Malaysia: Penang to return 265 waste-filled containers to countries of origin

Balvin Kaur New Straits Times 10 Jun 19;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang will send 265 plastic waste-filled containers, which are currently held up at the North Butterworth Container Terminal, back to their countries of origin.

State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said that the state is taking the action after receiving instructions from the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry.

The plastic waste containers arrived in Penang from Belgium, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Canada and several other countries.

Phee said that the state’s first step is to determine the details of the containers, which belong to 11 different companies, which will be investigated for importing the plastic waste.

“Once we work out the details, we will contact the companies and start negotiations on sending the waste back.

“Negotiations are needed because the companies can refuse to take responsibility for sending the containers back.

“Among the things we need to negotiate are the freight charges and the cost of returning the containers.

“We also need to get the companies’ assurance that they will not dump the waste into the ocean half way,” Phee told the New Straits Times.

He added that they are hoping to return the waste as soon as possible – but admitted that negotiations could take time.

“The principle is that we will have to send (the waste) back (to their countries of origin) within one month,” Phee said.

It was reported that the containers, of which only 149 were declared, were brought into the country under a household waste code and without approved permits for plastic waste.

State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said that the state is taking the action after receiving instructions from the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry. Pic by NSTP/DANIAL SAAD
The companies involved in importing the rubbish hid the plastic waste behind a wall of household waste in the containers to evade customs’ detection.

They have been hit with a RM1,000 fine per container.

The 265 40-foot containers, with a total weight of 7,420 tonnes, have been docked at the port for the past six months.

They are believed to have incurred some RM5 million in port charges.

When asked on whether any other legal action will be taken against the companies, Phee said that they are waiting for further instruction from the ministry and relevant authorities.

“There will be further action against the companies. At the moment, we only fined them for wrong declaration and not false declaration, which are two different things.

“We need to wait for instructions from the relevant authorities on our next legal action,” he said.

Malaysia has taken firm steps against becoming the worlds’ dumping ground.

Late last month, Minister Yeo Bee Yin oversaw the shipping of 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste back to their countries of origin.

Since then, several municipal councils have also taken steps to weed out illegal plastic recycling factories.

A total of 62 Malaysian companies currently hold approved permits (AP) to import and process plastic waste.

The permits are issued by the National Solid Waste Management Department (NSWMD), which is under the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

In July last year, the Ministry announced a three-month suspension on the issuance of permits following a contamination incident in Kuala Langat, Selangor, believed to have been caused by a factory processing plastic waste illegally.

Stricter checks at ports for plastic waste
Bernama New Straits Times 9 Jun 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: More stringent checks will be carried out on containers at all ports nationwide to ensure that no prohibited plastic waste enters the country.

Customs director-general Datuk Paddy Abdul Halim said they were working with the National Solid Waste Management Department and the Department of Environment to combat the smuggling of plastic waste into Malaysia.

“We are carrying out tighter checks on containers entering into the country, especially at Port Klang.

“The Customs have joined a special team formed by the government, which views seriously the dumping of banned plastic waste in the country, to combat the illegal activities,” he told Bernama.

The plastic waste issue came to light when the media reported on hundreds of containers in Port Klang were found to contain the illegal waste brought into the country in 10 operations carried out by the authorities.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the 60 containers of plastic waste brought into the country illegally on May 28, would be sent back to their countries of origin.

She said 10 out of the 60 containers weighing 450 metric tonnes was plastic waste from various countries like China, United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

Malaysia is among the countries that import recyclable plastic waste and so far 62 companies have been issued approved permits (AP) by the National Solid Waste Management Department to bring in and process plastic scraps in the country.

However, strict conditions are imposed on those importing and processing the plastic waste, among them importers should having storage premises and facilities to carry out processing and recycling of the imported plastic waste.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed having received a report on the alleged illegal operation of a plastic waste recycling plant at Jenjarom in Kuala Langat, near here.

MACC Investigation Division director Datuk Seri Simi Abd Gani said the report was received last year.

“An investigation found that the plant which was reportedly operating illegally did not have any elements of corruption," he told Bernama, adding that such complaints of illegal operations should be submitted to the local authorities and related parties.

He added that to date, the MACC has not received any new report (this year) on the issue.

On June 3, it was reported that 10 out of 41 illegal factories processing plastic waste in Klang have been closed. The remaining will be closed, latest by this July.

Selangor MACC director Datuk Alias Salim said a man was arrested for allegedly receiving bribes over the opening of a plastic waste recycling plant last year and MACC was still investigating the case, however, the man has been released.

Alias also added MACC did not receive any reports on the abuse of power and corruption pertaining to containers carrying plastic waste at Port Klang. - BERNAMA

NGOs question Malaysia's official stand on entry of global waste
Bernama New Straits Times 10 Jun 19;

KUALA LUMPUR: The entry of the world’s plastic waste which is polluting parts of Malaysia is a matter of serious concern.

Over the past year, 157,299 tonnes of plastic waste was shipped to this country – an increase of 273 per cent compared to the previous year.

This year, a number of allegedly illegal plastic waste disposal sites have been uncovered in Ipoh, Perak; Sungai Petani, Kedah; Jenjarom, Selangor – besides over 60 containers which arrived at West Port, Selangor containing plastic waste believed to have been smuggled into the country and abandoned by local importers.

Recently, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said that all 60 containers filled with 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste will be sent back to their countries of origin.

This is in contrast to a statement by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin last year, saying that the plastic waste processing business is a RM30 billion a year industry which cannot be neglected.

Hence, what is the country’s direction on this issue?

Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said that if the government is serious about venturing into the plastic waste processing industry, it has to be done carefully, as the country has been ranked eighth in the world for contributing towards marine pollution caused by plastic waste.

The lecturer at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science at Universiti Putra Malaysia said that the chemicals generated from plastic waste are polluting the air, water and soil biota; besides its combustion products posing a risk of contaminating breast milk.

“Ethyl polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and fire resistant materials that are widely found in television sets and computers can alter sex hormones, reduce fertility and hinder ovarian development if (individuals are) exposed to them for long,” he told Bernama.

Charting a path forward, he said that with high costs and limited space, new technologies in waste disposal should be introduced by the government, including Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) technology which is used in Germany and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, EcoKnights president Yasmin Rasyid is of the opinion that the import of contaminated plastic waste should be banned, stressing that the government should protect the people and regulate corporations.

“The profiteering perspective focuses on just economic gain for certain sectors, with disregard to the harm it can bring to the people and the environment.

“We need to change the way profit is made, not continue as per usual. This shows lack of social innovations on the part of the plastics industry. Disposable plastics need to go. Economic growth is short term, human health and the planet needs to be protected,” she said.

According to National Solid Waste Management Department assistant director Wemi Kalsuna Katerun, only 62 companies have Approved Permits (APs) to process plastic waste, compared to 314 companies before the government set stricter conditions for the granting of APs on Oct 26, last year.

Sahabat Alam (Friends of Nature Activists Society) activist Shakila Zain said that the country’s garbage disposal industry is still unable to accommodate domestic waste in terms of cost and the size of landfill areas, much less to take over the task of managing waste from outside.

“In 2017, garbage disposal sites were reduced from 289 to 113, and this figure is alarming, as there is no alternative proposed for disposal of garbage. No (new) recycling sites (have been built either).

“We are not a zero-carbon country like Bhutan, and so are able to take over the responsibility of reducing the amount of garbage or carbon from other countries,” she said.

Sahabat Alam Sekitar Malaysia president Datuk Abdul Malek Yusof, said that if the government wants to seriously venture into plastic waste processing, it must set standard operating procedures and strict enforcement.

“If properly processed and imported according to industry requirements, there (would be no problem with accepting foreign waste). The problem is when the garbage imported from countries outside is not for recycling… (and) the waste is dumped at illegal disposal sites,” he said.

Pahang DoE launches investigation on illegal plastic waste storage plant
T.N.Alagesh New Straits Times 10 Jun 19;

KUANTAN: The Pahang Department of Environment (DoE) has teamed up with several agencies to probe into the alleged existence of a plastic waste warehouse facility near an oil palm plantation in Karak near Bentong.

Its director Rosli Zul said the DoE along with representatives from the National Solid Waste Management Department (NSWMD), Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) and Bentong Municipal Council visited the site today to gather details and assess the situation.

"The enforcement team is verifying the allegations and we cannot issue any statement yet on our findings ....we will have to gather all the required information before providing any updates.

"The operating licence is under the jurisdiction of the local municipal council and National Solid Waste Management Department so only they can speak on it," he said today.

It is learnt that the permit to process plastic waste are issued by the NSWMD within the Housing and Local Government Ministry while the business licence involved the local council.

Last week, Bentong member of parliament Wong Tack spoke about the operations of the plastic waste plant following a visit to the site based on information from nearby residents.

Wong who visited the site with Sabai assemblywoman D. Kamache and Bilut assemblyman Lee Chin Chen claimed the plant with plastic materials brought from Canada had been operating illegally for the past year.

He said Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin has been informed of the alleged plant for further action.

Meanwhile, Kamache said the allegedly illegal plastic waste dumping site was located on land supposedly belonging to the Central Spine Road (CSR) project.

She said the warehouse site located a few kilometres from the Karak-Kuala Pilah main road was also surrounded by an oil palm plantation and alleged that the waste was buried under the trees.

"Based on the labels and information spotted from the plastic materials, we believe the items were brought in from Canada and abandoned here for recycling purposes. However, this is against the law, some of the waste is kept in the open while there are also huge piles kept in the warehouse.

"This is an illegal recycling factory and since the authorities had been alerted, we hope they will order the operator to clean the mess soon," she said when contacted.

It is learnt that the plastic waste site was located on reclaimed land which was meant for the CSR project, a dual-carriageway connecting Bentong and Kuala Krai, Kelantan.

Following the recent spate of environmental contamination incidents and the public outcry that followed, Yeo declared a war on plastic waste.

Last month, she ordered 60 containers laden with plastic waste stranded at Port Klang to be sent back to their countries of origin, in stages.