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Complete ban of plastic waste import

  • We don't need this kind of economic activities. The quality of life and health of Malaysians is much more important than anything else. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

To prevent the country from becoming a foreign plastic waste dumping ground, the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry has sent back 60 containers filled with some 3,000 tons of illegally imported foreign plastic waste.

At the same time, the government is also issuing a notice to local businesses suspected of importing the foreign plastic waste to ship back ten containers to their countries of origin within 14 days.

The ministry's move is highly commendable. Such illegally imported foreign waste must be shipped back to the countries of origin and businesses violating the law must be dealt with sternly.

It must be emphasized that the most effective solution is to completely ban the import of foreign plastic waste so as to stop irresponsible businesses from bringing in illegal foreign waste.

China fully banned the import of plastic waste last year. As a result, Malaysia has become the second destination for developed countries to dump their waste.

It is imperative that the government is firm in is position that developing countries do not have an obligation to handle plastic waste from developed countries.

This foreign waste will not only harm our environment but will also become a burden to the government.

Some of the operators claim that they have imported the plastic waste for processing but as a matter of fact, not all plastic materials can be reprocessed, especially the contaminated, mixed and low-grade plastic which will eventually be dumped deliberately or burned, releasing toxic substances into the atmosphere and jeopardizing the health of nearby residents.

As minister Yeo Bee Yin has said, these illegal waste importers are like “traitors” to the country.

The government should force these irresponsible businesses to send back the waste under the Environment Quality Act, or prosecute them.

In the meantime, state governments can also deal with illegal plastic recycling factories and their owners under the National Land Code.

However, this will not tackle the problem once and for all.

When local authorities raid the illegal factories, very soon the operators will switch their operations elsewhere. Moreover, we have plenty of foreign waste containers being handled at our ports, making it almost impossible for the enforcement authorities to eradicate the problem.

Yeo Bee Yin said her ministry had shut down 150 illegal plastic recycling plants but that was not enough, and the government needed to tackle the issue from its root cause.

In addition to the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry, other government departments such as the housing and local government ministry as well as the customs department should also be involved.

In view of this, the government must have a consistent set of decisions and actions on the issue of foreign waste. The operators involved will not get their permits renewed upon expiry.

We don't need this kind of economic activities. The quality of life and health of Malaysians is much more important than anything else.

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