20 September 2019 by Will Date

Exported plastic waste returning to the UK

Environment Agency officers are to investigate the contents of 42 containers of plastic waste that are being repatriated to the UK from Malaysia.

This comes amid reports which have come to light this week that containers of ‘contaminated’ plastic waste will be returned from Indonesia to their countries of origin – including the UK.

Malaysian authorities inspect a container of waste in May 2019

This followed the announcement by Malaysian authorities earlier this May of 120 containers of contaminated plastic waste to their original source, in a show of force against alleged illegal waste exports (see letsrecycle.com story).

Containers from countries including Australia, the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and Bangladesh, as well as the UK, Spain, Norway, Netherlands and France were implicated in the action, according to the Malaysian government.

However, no formal request to return containers to the UK was received until much later this summer, with the Environment Agency this week revealing that 42 containers are being returned from Penang Port to the UK.

Environment Agency

Responding to questions on illegal waste exports yesterday, an Environment Agency spokesperson, said: “The UK is committed to tackling illegal waste exports, which is why individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two-year jail term or an unlimited fine.

“We’re taking steps to ensure that this waste is safely returned and working closely with the Malaysian authorities to investigate and ensure we strengthen our joint working to tackle illegal exports.”

Environment Agency

“While we have not received a formal request for information from the Indonesian authorities, we have received a request from the Malaysian authorities to repatriate 42 containers of plastic from Penang Port. We’re taking steps to ensure that this waste is safely returned and working closely with the Malaysian authorities to investigate and ensure we strengthen our joint working to tackle illegal exports.”

The Environment Agency has said this summer that it has intensified its work to prevent illegal exports of waste, including enforcement action where necessary (see letsrecycle.com story).

Spotlight on plastics

This comes amid an increasing focus on plastic waste exports, brought on in part 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 television series on plastic waste.

Comments from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, suggest that he would like to end the export of plastic waste

Focus on plastic exports was further in the spotlight following comments by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, in which he appeared to suggest that the UK would seek to end the export of the material.

Responding to questions from the Guardian newspaper about the suspension of parliament, the Prime Minister, said: “We’re going to need Bills; on education, on health, on housing, on technology, on our vision for investing in science and the space programme.

“On Environment; stopping the export of waste overseas and plastics, there are a huge number of things that we want to get on with and do.”

“We need a Queen’s Speech, we need to get on with these,” he added.

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