The British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has today (7 June) issued a statement saying it is “deeply concerned about the illegal trade in plastic waste” to the country.
The statement explained that the UK “stands with Malaysia” on the issue of illegal trade in plastic waste – by repatriating waste shipped illegally out of UK and collaborating on research and development.
Last week, it was reported that Malaysian authorities are seeking to repatriate shipping containers full of mixed plastic waste described as ‘contaminated and low quality’ (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, the Malaysian government confirmed the following day that none of the waste that had been returned so far had originated from the UK, and the Environment Agency has since told letsrecycle.com that it has yet to be contacted by the Malaysian authorities over the repatriation of waste to the UK.
In its statement today, the British High commission today said it would ‘condemn’ companies found to be acting illegally.
It said: “While we recognise that there is a legitimate export market for plastics – particularly for countries that manufacture new products out of recycled plastic waste, we condemn companies which export unrecyclable plastic waste illegally, as well as companies which import recyclable plastic waste but fail to recycle or dispose of the waste in a responsible and sustainable manner”
To tackle illegal waste exports from the UK, the government has said it is working closely with businesses that export waste to countries such as Malaysia to ensure that waste exported for recycling is uncontaminated and only sent to overseas facilities that are correctly licensed and able to recycle it correctly.
Any companies found to be doing so could face criminal and financial sanctions, the government has said, and individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two year jail term or an unlimited fine.
The British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur also remarked that it is supporting the Malaysian Government in tackling the plastic waste problem. This includes sharing the UK experience as well as collaborating with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) in Malaysia on research and development in future mitigation of plastic use.
The move comes amid an increasing focus on plastic waste exports, brought on again by the fact that material from UK local authorities has been reported as being found on land in Malaysia by a BBC documentary crew as part of a forthcoming series on plastic waste