China’s decision changed the world order in waste recycling with a lot of the material being diverted to other Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia. In the first seven months of 2018, Malaysia imported 456,000 tonnes of plastic waste from its 10 largest source countries — exceeding the 316,600 tonnes recorded for the whole of 2017 and 168,500 tonnes in 2016, as per a report in Channel NewsAsia.
But in October 2018, the new Malaysian government announced it would ban the import of plastic scrap and start cracking down on factories that process such waste illegally. Thailand also said it would ban such waste from 2021.
“China’s ban on plastic waste has actually opened up the eyes of Malaysia and many other countries,” said Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister of energy, technology, science, climate change and environment, according to a CNBC report.
Malaysia also has plans to stop taking in all types of plastic from overseas in three years. A clean environment doesn’t have to come at the expense of growth and “protecting the environment, pushing for green economy is not mutually exclusive to economic development,” the minister was quoted as saying. As a developing country, they want sustainable development and they believe there is a sustainable growth plan for Malaysia, she added.