Malaysia has proclaimed that it will not be “the rubbish dump of the world” and has returned numerous containers of plastic waste to 13 countries since last year. Malaysia has sent back 150 containers of plastic waste since the third quarter of last year and another 110 containers are expected to be sent back by the middle of this year. Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said, “Our position is very firm. We just want to send back [the waste], and we just want to give a message that Malaysia is not the dumping site of the world.”
China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018, which led to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations becoming the favored destinations for unwanted rubbish. According to the South China Morning Post, Malaysia took in 870,000 tons of plastic in early 2018 and dozens of plastic recycling factories, some unlicensed, sprung up to handle the surplus. Plastic waste exported from the U.S. to Malaysia more than doubled during the first seven months of 2018 compared with the previous year.
Malaysia subsequently banned the importation of such refuse into the country in July 2018. Now, Malaysia joins China, the Philippines and Indonesia in returning imported waste back to their countries of origin. Since the government’s declaration, a total of 4,120 tons of waste has been returned and 200 illegal plastic recycling factories have been shut down throughout the country.
The country recently returned 150 containers of waste to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Spain, as well as China, Japan, Singapore and Sri Lanka. France received the most at 43, followed by the U.S. at 42. The costs of sending back the waste have been fully borne by the shipping liners and companies responsible for importing and exporting the waste, sparing the Malaysian government from having to pay a single cent.
Yeo said 110 additional containers still being held at Malaysian ports. Talks are ongoing with U.S. authorities to take back another 60 containers this year. A similar scenario is playing out in the Philippines, which is fighting with Canada over tons of plastic trash shipped to its shores.