Illegal waste stinks up Penang


BUTTERWORTH: Municipal plastic waste from the world’s most developed countries is causing a health hazard in Penang.

The 265 cargo containers contain bits of rotting food and organic matter, making it difficult for the Penang Customs Department to inspect its contents.

“Most of the containers are from Canada, while others are from the United States, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan,” said state Customs director Datuk Saidi Ismail.

He said 11 containers were moved to an open field at the Customs staff quarters in Bagan Jermal while the rest remained in North Butterworth Container Terminal.

“Out of the 265 containers, 149 were wrongly declared while 116 of them were undeclared.

“The containers belonged to 11 companies based on their shipping manifest,” Saidi said in a press conference yesterday.

So far, he said 130 containers had been inspected and RM1,000 compounds were issued against each of them, but none of the compounds had been settled yet.

Saidi said all the containers came in this year and the department was facing difficulty in giving each one a full inspection.

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

“With limited manpower, the process is time-consuming and we can only inspect one container per day,” he said.

Penang Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh, who was present, said the modus operandi of importers was to fill the containers with illegal waste and then put a layer of legal waste at the opening to try and hoodwink cargo inspectors.

Phee said they were now waiting for the next directive from the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and

Cli­mate Change, which intends to send the containers back to where they came from.