Malaysia sends garbage back to countries: no more trash cans for the rich

Malaysia sends thousands of tons of garbage back to rich countries. Like many other developing countries, it is a destination for waste exports.

Yeo Bee Yin, environment minister of Malaysia, next to a container full of garbage Photo: ap

Malaysia sends back 3,000 tons of unusable garbage to wealthy countries. Sixty containers of contaminated waste had been smuggled to illegal processing plants in the country, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Tuesday. Ten of the containers would be returned within two weeks. Since China banned the import of plastic waste last year, Malaysia and many developing countries have become new destinations for waste exports from rich countries, he said.

At a port outside Kuala Lumpur, the minister showed reporters some of the garbage. Among them were cables from Great Britain, contaminated milk cartons from Australia and CDs from Bangladesh. Also on display were electronic waste and household waste from the USA, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China.

The garbage from China appeared to have originated in France and been diverted after the People’s Republic banned imports, Yeo said. "This is probably just the tip of the iceberg because of China’s plastic waste ban," she added.

Malaysia says it is taking this action to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich countries. The Chinese ban has "opened the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem," Yeo said. "We’re calling on developed countries to review their plastic waste management and stop shipping waste to developing countries." Such practices are "unfair and uncivilized," he said.

Yeo cited the example of a British recycling company that has brought more than 50,000 tons of plastic waste to Malaysia in about 1,000 containers over the past two years.

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