Time to put a tighter lid on plastic waste

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018

Caught in the act: Piles of plastic waste found at an illegal recycling factory and waste dumping site at Sungai Rambai in Jenjarom.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia took in 754,000 tonnes of plastic waste from over 19 countries this year, with US, Japan and Britain billed as the highest exporters.

Data from the Department of National Solid Waste Management showed that US is the nation’s top plastic waste exporter, followed by Japan and Britain.

Together they account for 54% of plastic waste imports from January to July this year.

The following top exporters are Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Spain, Estonia and France.

Greenpeace Malaysia revealed this data in its The Recycling Myth report uncovering regulation violations in the plastic waste disposal following news surrounding illegal plastic waste recycling factories mushrooming in Jenjarom, Johor and Penang.

“Malaysia has become the world’s rubbish bin,” Greenpeace public and engagement campaigner Heng Kiah Chun said during the launch of the report here yesterday.

Working with Kuala Langat Environmental Protection Associa­tion (KLEPA), Greenpeace Malaysia’s investigation of plastic recycling factories in Kuala Langat found plastic waste from over 19 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Australia and Romania.

The report found that between January and July, Malaysia imported 754,000 metric tonnes of plastic – this is equivalent to approximately 100,000 large elephants.

The total value of the nation’s plastic import is over RM483mil.

However, only 9% of this is clean plastic waste that can be recycled, said Greenpeace.

It said that based on global data, the remaining 12% of plastic waste are incinerated and 79% end up in landfills or dumped in the natural environment.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin had said in parliament that plastic waste processing business is a RM30bil industry that cannot be ignored.

Kuala Langat residents, who are in the middle of the fight against over 40 illegal plastic recycling centres in the area, say this value comes at the cost of their health.

“We are the ones bearing the environmental risk of this plastic waste,” said resident Pua Lay Peng.

“Even if we avoid the dumping grounds and install water filters, we cannot avoid the acid smell in the air,” Pua said.

KLEPA president Tan Ching Hin said the illegal plastic recycling factories are producing solid waste while the water pollution has forced fish and prawn farms to stop operations.

He claimed that villagers are developing chronic respiratory diseases from the open burning of unrecyclable waste.

Tan also added that these fac­tories, mostly illegal facilities owned by China companies, mainly hire foreign workers.

He added that its environmental impact will reduce the value of property in the area as well as affect local businesses.

“It is shameful that we have become the dumping ground of the world,” Tan added.

In its report, Greenpeace welcomes the government’s decision to permanently ban the import of plastic waste but urge for stronger policies to also control the import of clean plastic waste.

“This is not a Malaysian problem, it is a global problem,” Heng said.

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