Malaysia sending contaminated plastic waste back to US, other countries

Malaysia sending contaminated plastic waste back to US, other countries
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As much as 450 tons of plastic waste contaminated by non-recyclable material will be shipped back to the U.S. and several other countries after it arrived in Malaysia erroneously labeled as recyclable waste — a move Malaysian officials said was part of a larger problem.

Malaysia's minister of science and environmental matters Yeo Bee Yin said at a press conference that nine shipping containers holding waste from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Singapore, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh would be shipped back to their countries of origin, CNN reported.


At a press conference Tuesday, Yeo told reporters that Western nations were guilty of exporting massive amounts of waste to developing nations like Malaysia, pointing to one company in the U.K. which she said was responsible for more than 50,000 tons of plastic imported to Malaysia over just two years.

"We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage to developing countries," she said.

Malaysia's government is reportedly working to cut down on illegal plastic waste imports, though there is no evidence of any wrongdoing yet regarding Tuesday's discovery of mislabeled containers.

A Greenpeace investigation found that Malaysia's waste processing industry has become overwhelmed by an influx of requests for countries to dump plastic waste, leading to companies resorting to dangerous practices such as open-air burning.

“The Malaysian plastic recycling industry is overwhelmed by the influx and cannot accommodate the waste in a way that is sustainable and acceptable by the government’s own standards. Our investigation found evidence of harmful plastic waste processing being carried out in Klang, on the western outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, and Jenjarom to the south,” Heng Kiah Chun, a Greenpeace Malaysia spokesperson, said in a press release.