Swamped with plas­tic waste: Malaysia strug­gles as global scrap piles up

Stabroek News Sunday - - CLASSIFIEDS/NEWS -

PULAU IN­DAH, Malaysia, (Reuters) - Hun­dreds of sacks filled with plas­tic waste from the United States, Bri­tain, South Korea and Spain spill onto the streets of an in­dus­trial zone in Pulau In­dah, an is­land town just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur and home to Malaysia’s big­gest port.

The stench of burn­ing plas­tic and fumes from nearly a dozen re­cy­cling fac­to­ries wafts through the neigh­bour­hood, even as more con­tainer-loads of plas­tic waste are un­loaded.

Pulau In­dah - iron­i­cally, the name means “beau­ti­ful is­land” in Malay - is one of many towns in Malaysia where il­le­gal plas­tic re­cy­cling fac­to­ries have popped up in re­cent months as the South­east Asian na­tion be­came the top choice for plas­tic waste ex­porters from around the world.

The trig­ger for this dump­ing del­uge was a Chi­nese ban on waste im­ports from the be­gin­ning of this year, which dis­rupted the flow of more than 7 mil­lion tonnes of plas­tic scrap a year.

Malaysia quickly be­came the lead­ing al­ter­na­tive des­ti­na­tion, im­port­ing nearly half a mil­lion tonnes of plas­tic waste be­tween Jan­uary and July from just its top 10 source­coun­tries. Dozens of fac­to­ries have opened up in Malaysia to han­dle that waste, many with­out an op­er­at­ing li­cence, us­ing low-end tech­nol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tally harm­ful meth­ods of dis­posal.

“The sit­u­a­tion is get­ting worse, espe­cially with more and more il­le­gal plas­tic re­cy­cling fac­to­ries,” Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s min­is­ter of en­ergy, tech­nol­ogy, science, cli­mate change and environment, told par­lia­ment last week.

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