Malaysian Environment Minister, Yeo Bee Yin, has said that the government has repatriated 150 containers of illegal plastic waste, weighing approximately 3,737 metric tonnes.
Releasing data of 13 countries who are receiving containers, the UK was second only to France who will have 43 containers returned, with 42 coming back to Britain.
Of the countries who have shipped contaminated plastic, four are from Europe: France, UK, Portugal and Lithuania. The authorities hope to send back another 110 containers by the middle of 2020 – with 60 of those going to the US.
In 2018, the UK exported 96,892 tonnes of plastic waste to Malaysia, the largest export destination for plastic.
China has led the way in countries shutting their doors to imported recycled material, citing the fact that large amounts of the waste were “dirty” or “hazardous” and thus a threat to the environment. With exporters looking for alternative markets, the volume of plastic waste imported into Malaysia increased.
The decision to return contaminated material and input additional legislation, from countries that have taken the volumes of recycled material no longer being accepted in China, is becoming commonplace. Poland announced tougher rules after multiple fires at waste dumps, Thailand has temporarily prohibited plastic waste imports and says it will implement a full ban by 2021. Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia have all put in additional measures to help clamp down on illegal plants and practices.
This follows concerns raised during the BBC documentary War on Waste, aired in 2019, where material from UK local authorities was found on land in Malaysia.
Public concerns over quality of recycling have filtered through, putting pressure on UK recycling targets and contributing to increased PRN prices throughout 2019, particularly plastic.
Head of Packaging, Martin Trigg-Knight, said:
“The UK Government’s Resources and Waste strategy is looking at introducing significant changes to the regulations for how we deal with plastic waste, which will include extended producer responsibility, a deposit return system and potentially a plastic tax. The cost for businesses required to be compliant with legislation will be increasing dramatically. In addition, the global recycling market will continue to introduce measures that ensure only quality materials are being exported, increasing the pressure on exports and thus prices for UK businesses.”
“With an in-house trading team, we are in a fortunate position to be able to work with our members to procure the best possible priced PRNs through the year. But the price volatility, experienced throughout 2019, has shown how vital it is that packaging waste producers prepare now for the changes ahead to protect their business as much as possible from rising costs.”
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