Malaysia has become the top destination for plastic scrap exporters such as the United States and Britain, having received nearly half a million tonnes from its top 10 source-countries between January and July. The trigger was a Chinese ban on waste imports from the beginning of 2018. China took seven million tonnes of plastic scrap last year.
At a news conference, housing minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said Malaysia would stop issuing new permits for importing plastic waste. It already had a three-month freeze on imports that ended last week, according to the report. “We will limit the import of plastic waste from developing countries. So we will limit the imports to only from the United States, Europe and Japan, for quality plastics,” said the minister, who oversees the waste management department.
The United States, the world’s top exporter of plastic scrap, sent 178,238 tonnes of it to Malaysia between January and July, nearly twice as much as it sent to the second top destination, Thailand, according to the United Nations trade database and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Britain sends a quarter of its waste to Malaysia. Dozens of factories have opened up in Malaysia to handle plastic waste, many without an operating licence, using low-end technology and environmentally harmful methods of disposal, as per media reports. Minister Zuraida said authorities would take action to shut down illegal plants.