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.
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.
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.