Malaysia to send back 3,300 tons of plastic waste to the US, UK, Canada, and Australia

Malaysia to send back 3,300 tons of plastic waste to the US, UK, Canada, and Australia

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin made an announcement on Tuesday, in which she claimed that Malaysia will be sending back 3,300 tons of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Yeo said that her country and others have become new dumping grounds for waste after China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018. She explained that 60 containers full of contaminated waste were smuggled to illegal processing facilities in Malaysia, and will soon be sent back to their countries of origin - ten of which are due to be shipped back within two weeks.

PORT KLANG, MALAYSIA - MAY 28: Containers filled with plastic waste shipment are seen before sending back to the country of origin in Port Klang on May 28, 2019. A total of 3,000 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste will be shipping back to their countries of origin today, signalling Malaysias effort to take the lead in the global crusade against unscrupulous export of scrap. (Photo by Adli Ghazali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Credit: Getty

This waste included cables from the UK, CDs from Bangladesh, contaminated milk cartons from Australia, and household waste from the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. Other waste appeared to have been sent to China initially before being rerouted following the ban. One singular UK recycling company reportedly exported over 55,000 tons of plastic waste in 1,000 containers to Malaysia in just a two year time period.

"This is probably just the tip of the iceberg [due] to the banning of plastic waste by China," Yeo said at a press conference. "Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world ... we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we can't be bullied by developed countries."

According to Yeo, China's plastic waste ban had "opened up the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem," with the ramifications in countries in Asia too. Just last week, the Philippines announced they are shipping dozens of containers of waste back to Canada after they were illegally sent over in 2013 and 2014.

PORT KLANG, MALAYSIA - MAY 28: Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), Yeo Bee Yin (L) shows plastics waste shipment from Australia before sending back to the country of origin in Port Klang on May 28, 2019. A total of 3,000 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste will be shipping back to their countries of origin today, signalling Malaysias effort to take the lead in the global crusade against unscrupulous export of scrap. (Photo by Adli Ghazali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Credit: Getty

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, threatened to ship these containers back by force after the country failed to comply with a May 15 deadline to retrieve it. Canada's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna awarded a contract to Bollore Logistics Canada to help return the containers by the end of June, but this plan was rejected.

"We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries," Yeo said in her speech.

The Minister called these richer nations "unfair and uncivilized" for dumping their waste in developing nations where it is recycled illegally, as well as condemning them for the environmental and health hazards. Yeo also vowed to take action against companies within Malaysia that illegally imported used plastic, calling them "traitors to the country's sustainability."