Malaysia has become one of the world's largest importers of plastic waste, with the country receiving 456,000 tonnes in the first half of 2018


The containers of plastic waste were shipped to Malaysia between March 2018 and March 2019 (Credit: Pixabay)

The UK is to take back 42 containers of plastic waste illegally shipped to Malaysia, according to a joint statement by the Asian country’s Environment Department and the UK High Commission.

Arriving at Malaysia’s Penang Port between March 2018 and March 2019, the containers were rejected after failing to comply with the necessary import papers.

In October 2018, the Malay government announced it would take steps to limit imports of plastic waste.

The country’s Minister of Energy, Science Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) Yeo Bee Yin said: “The British High Commission’s proactive action of working closely with MESTECC in repatriating 42 plastic import containers in Penang Port is highly commendable.

“This co-operation signifies a recognition that plastic pollution is a global issue, which requires commitment from various countries to address the problem.

“We hope the co-operation and understanding between Malaysia and the UK will set an example for other countries with companies exporting contaminated plastic waste to other developing nations.”


UK and Malaysia collaborating to heighten awareness of plastic waste issues

Ever since China implemented its Operation Sword policy, which has tightened up its waste imports, Malaysia has become one of the world’s leading destinations for plastic scrap.

Between January and July 2018, it imported 456,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the 10 biggest source countries, more than any other country.

In an effort to deal with the illegal plastic ending up in Malaysia, the UK’s Environment Agency, supported by the British High Commission, met with several authorities in Malaysia to better understand the regulatory framework and policies related to the trade in plastic waste.

Malaysia plastic waste
In September the British High Commission and the Malaysian government jointly hosted a special reception and screening of BBC documentary series Blue Planet II (Credit: Pixabay)

Britain’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Charles Hay, said: “The repatriation of these 42 containers reflects our commitment to fight the illegal plastic waste trade.

“We look forward to working with Malaysia on the broader agenda of conserving the environment and addressing climate change, particularly with the UK becoming the joint chair of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) next year.”

The UK and Malaysian authorities are also collaborating on projects designed to raise awareness of the plastic pollution problem.

In September the British High Commission and MESTECC hosted a special reception and screening of BBC documentary series Blue Planet II

Alongside this, MESTECC held a month-long environmental awareness event that began in mid-September and culminated in the National Environment Day event on 19 October 2019.

Supporting the ministry’s initiative, the UK offered its expertise through sustainability charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Speaking at the time, WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover said: “Plastic pollution is a global problem, which requires a truly global solution which transforms for good the way we make, use and dispose of plastic in the future.

“We are delighted that the Malaysian Government has been inspired by the trailblazing success of The UK Plastics Pact, developed by WRAP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and have committed to working with businesses and organisations to develop their own Pact in Malaysia.

“Together, we are creating a powerful global platform for change which will help to keep plastic in the economy and out of the environment.”