The environment ministry said Malaysia will return a shipment container full of plastic trash that was on its way here from the United States since it violates new UN rules governing hazardous waste, which is one of the first signs of the regulations being enforced.
Since two years ago, more than 180 countries agreed to ban hard-to-recycle plastic waste trade in an attempt to stop rich countries from dumping their waste in developing nations like Malaysia.
The new restrictions which came under the Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty that regulates the trade in hazardous waste, came into effect in January.
According to Reuters, signatory countries can now only trade plastic waste if it meets a certain low-contamination criteria, meaning that it’s clean, sorted out and easy to recycle, or if the exporting country gets consent first from the importing country.
Ministry of Environment’s spokesman Mohamad Khalil Zaiyany Sumiran told Reuters a shipment was coming from the US which authorities said did not meet the criteria or have prior approval to be imported here. “After investigations, Malaysia will send back the container to its origin country,” he said, adding that it wasn’t clear when it will arrive in the States.
Minister of Environment Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said in a statement that the shipment, which came from Los Angeles, California would be barred by authorities.
The US, which produces more plastic per capita than any other country is the only major nation that hasn’t officially accept the Basel Convention and is not bound by its rules but under the treaty, Malaysia cannot accept prohibited plastic waste from the US.
Since China banned import in 2018, Malaysia became the world’s dumping ground for plastic trash but has sent back thousands of tonnes of waste since then.
According to a 2020 article by The Guardian, the Italian government has also been urged to end its illicit export of plastic waste to Malaysia after Greenpeace investigations exposed the environmental and health implications of the country after being used as the main dumping ground for un-recyclable plastic waste.
Instead of recycling, most of the plastic waste that was sent here were either dumped, burned or left to rot in illegal processing plants.