Over 250 plastic waste-filled containers left stranded at Penang Port


BUTTERWORTH: There are 265 containers filled with plastic waste stranded at the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT), as the Customs Department has their hands full inspecting the contents.

The Department now has no choice but to use the field at their quarters in Bagan Jermal as a temporary detention yard, with 11 containers filled with plastic waste there.

Penang Customs Department director Datuk Saidi Ismail said to date, RM1,000 compounds have been issued to each of 130 containers inspected, but none of the them have been paid yet.

"We found that among the 265 containers at the port, 149 were wrongly declared while 116 of them were undeclared.

"The containers belonged to 11 companies based on their shipping manifest.

"Most of the containers are from Canada, followed by some from United States, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan," said Saidi during a press conference at the quarters on Thursday (May 30).

Saidi added that Customs is facing difficulty dealing with the large numbers of containers.

"With limited manpower, the process is time consuming, and we are only able to inspect about one container per day," he said.

He said the containers could potentially contain toxic and hazardous materials.

"We need to ensure safety of our inspection officers, and this is a joint effort with the Environment Department," he said.

Penang Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the modus operandi was to fill the back part of containers with illegal waste and cover it with legal waste at the front portion.

"The containers were declared as scrap so they packed the front layer of the container with scrap then filled the remaining portion at the back with municipal plastic waste," he said.

Phee said they are now waiting for the next directive from the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change.

"We will follow the manifest and send it back to the ports of origin. They will have to handle from there, including the freight cost," he said.

In October last year, the Housing and Local Government Ministry issued a permanent ban on the import of plastic waste.

Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said a circular has been issued to all local councils, especially in Selangor and Penang, to shut down all illegal plastic factories.

She added that all plastic waste factories would need to approval from the Ministry when applying for new approved permits (AP) to import plastic waste.

China banned plastic imports earlier last year, leading to a huge impact on the global recycling system.

This led to a number of Chinese companies relocating their operations to Malaysia, with some setting up shop here as soon as the Chinese government announced the ban in 2017.

A news reports said that Malaysia's imports of plastic waste from its 10 biggest source-countries jumped to 456,000 tonnes between January and July 2018, versus 316,600 tonnes purchased in all of 2017 and 168,500 tonnes in 2016.

Most of the plastic scrap coming into the country is contaminated and low-quality plastic from developed countries that is non-recyclable.