IPOH: A controversy is brewing over towering mounds of plastic waste in what a British news website claims to be a jungle but is actually the storage area of a recycling factory in an industrial zone.
Reporters who went to the site at the IGB Industrial Area in Tasek saw plastic, cardboard and fabric waste piled up higher than a man’s height and on area almost half as big as a football field.
But while the website claimed the plastic waste was dumped in Malaysia from overseas, Perak Environment Department insisted the premises operates legally, with the factory manager saying it no longer imports plastic waste and only processes it as fuel.
Perak Environment Department director Norazizi Adinan said the report by Daily Mail was not factually right.
“The premises is licensed by the Ipoh City Council. We monitor it regularly to ensure it adheres to the Environmental Quality Act,” he said in a message to the media.
The Daily Mail Online quoted a BBC trailer from a three-part documentary that shows celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall discovering mountains of plastic waste from Britain intended for recycling but is instead dumped in Malaysia.
The chef has apparently found plastic packaging of well known British brands among the trash.
Greenpeace Malaysia campaigner Heng Kiah Chun said they found the mounds of plastic after getting a tip-off that waste was being shipped from Klang to Ipoh.
“We have only identified one location so far. We then shared the location with the BBC film crew who went there on their own,” he said, adding that the visit by the BBC occurred about six months ago.
Malaysia or other countries, said Heng, should not be used as dumping grounds, adding that developed nations should stop putting their responsibility on others.
“They should put in place policies to reduce single-use plastics with the aim of a complete end,” he said, adding that only about 9% of plastic waste was recycled globally.
“About 12% is incinerated and the remaining 79% ends up in landfill or the natural environment.
“This is a broken system and it is also clear recycling alone cannot fix our plastic problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, plastic recycling company Resourceco Asia (M) Sdn Bhd operations director K. Muralindran thinks that some of the footage from the trailer were taken from his plastic waste storage area.He said there was a trespassing incident involving four Mat Salleh (Caucasians) and three Malaysians in December.
“One of our security guards saw them and reported to me. They had cameras and were flying drones.
“I approached them, wanting to explain our operations at the factory but they declined, saying that they had to be elsewhere,” he said.
His factory, which started in 2011, sources plastic waste from 50 companies nationwide.
“We get the waste daily, averaging some 4,000 tonnes per month
“We don’t know where the companies get the waste but they are responsible for sending it to us for recycling,” he said.
“We take this waste, turn it into processed engineered fuel (PEF) and sell this to cement factories to replace coal,” he said, adding that about 90,000 tonnes of the solid fuel could be produced annually.
“We did import waste from Australia in 2015 but stopped doing so after being told by the state Environment Department,” he said, claiming about 97% of the waste would be recycled, with the remaining 3% consisting of rejected materials.
“This also means we have stopped some 97% of waste from turning up at landfills,” he said, adding that the Department of Environment conducted periodic checks on the factory.
“We also send them monthly reports,” he said, adding that he would welcome any environmental groups to engage with them.
“What we are doing is quite new and I can understand if people find the mounds of plastic waste an eyesore,” he said.
Under the PEF method, various non-recyclable waste materials are separated and shredded several times before being eventually produced into fuel.