SUNGAI PETANI: Penang did not want them, so plastic waste processing factories have moved here.
After a major crackdown “shooed away” illegal plastic waste processing facilities from Penang, many of them moved north, just 30 minutes from Butterworth.
Checks revealed that industrial plots as large as 4ha and vacant warehouses have become processing facilities for plastic waste that needed to be sorted by quality and cut into bits before being recycled.
The Kedah government is on alert and has ordered the closure of several illegal factories.
A few factories in the Sungai Petani Industrial Area had their gates sealed with yellow tape by local authorities.
However, forklifts on the factory grounds could still be seen shifting large sacks of shredded plastic piled two storeys high.
Kedah environment and climate change committee chairman Simon Ooi said so far, 14 illegal plastic waste factories in Sungai Petani had been ordered to cease all operations, but he was disappointed that some of them were still running.
“We have stopped issuing new licences for recycling plastic, and more drastic action will be taken very soon.
“We are arranging joint enforcement between various agencies, and will even cut electricity and water supply to these factories,” he said.
Ooi added that the state had planned on setting up a centralised garbage processing plant in Gurun but no decision had been made thus far.
Penang environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh confirmed when interviewed yesterday that since early this year, the Penang government found out that operators ordered to shut down had been shifting their plastic waste to Kedah.
“It was a mass migration of plastic waste out of Penang, and we received tip-offs that they ended up in Kulim, Gurun and Sungai Petani.
“While we are unable to keep track the entire time, we alerted our counterparts in Kedah to keep track of the arrivals.
“We are also sharing our experience with Kedah on tackling the issue and working together on it,” he said.
It was reported last September that out of about 200 plastic processing facilities in Penang, only 27 were licensed.
Those factories that were licensed had been reported importing a total of about 110,000 tonnes of plastic waste from around the world per month.
While plastic waste is nearly worthless, its value increases after they are sorted, graded and cut into bits for recycling.
However, recycling plants do not want certain plastic materials such as food wrappers with a layer of aluminium infused between plastic sheets.
Illegal processing facilities are known to either burn or dump such unwanted plastic waste.