20 January 2020 by Joshua Doherty

Malaysia claims ‘world first’ plastic repatriation

The Malaysian environment minister has claimed that her country has conducted a “world first” by repatriating 150 containers of “illegal plastic waste” to countries across the world, with 42 containers being returned to the UK.

The environment minister today highlighted the country’s actions in returning the ‘plastic waste’

In a statement this morning, Yeo Bee Yin said that Malaysian government repatriated 150 containers of illegal plastic waste, weighing approximately 3,737 metric tonnes.

Of this, the UK was the second worst offender with 42 containers, while France had 43 returned. Other countries such as the US, Canada and Japan were all mentioned.

“What we do is that in the history of the world this is the first time a country has massively restored this plastic waste container to its home country,” her translated statement read.

Her statement also included the below table which showed that the UK was the second worst offender, behind France. However, more containers, not listed in the table, are in the process of being returned to the United States.

Table shows containers being returned (Perancis = France)


In a press conference later in the day, Ms Bee Yin added: “Through our inspection of the ports and data from the Royal Malaysian customs department, most of the containers are exported from developed countries including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Spain and Japan.

“There are 110 more we will send across the three different ports in Malaysia. The one that is to be sent back is from the United States. We still have 60 out of 110 from the United States so we will continue to work with the United States government, the relevant local agencies in the United States to make sure that we actually send it back.

“To date, through the Department of Environment (DOE), [we have] repatriated 150 containers, with approximately 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic wastes that were illegally brought into Malaysia. The Malaysian government is serious about combating the import of illegal wastes as we do not want to be the garbage bin of the world.”

She also confirmed that the repatriation is being done at no cost to the country.


“We continue to work with the shipping lines and Malaysian authorities to ensure all waste is brought back”

Environment Agency

The plastic being returned to the UK consists of the material which the UK had previously agreed to take back, after the Environment Agency received an official request from the Malaysian authorities to repatriate the shipping containers of waste in September 2019.

In June last year, the British High Commissioner had expressed deep concern over the illegal trade in plastic waste” to Malaysia (see letsrecycle.com story).

Commenting on today’s announcement from Malaysia, an Environment Agency spokesperson, said: “We continue to work with the shipping lines and Malaysian authorities to ensure all waste is brought back as soon as possible. We are working hard to stop illegal waste exports from leaving our shores in the first place – last year we prevented over 12,500 tonnes of waste that might have been illegally exported from reaching ports, and inspected nearly 1,000 shipping containers. Anyone found guilty of exporting waste illegally can face a two year jail term and an unlimited fine.”


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