UK condemns shipments of illegal plastic waste to Malaysia

Individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste could face two years in jail or an unlimited fine in the UK

The British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur has said it is “deeply concerned” about the illegal trade in plastic waste, including those being exported from the UK to Malaysia.

It has condemned companies that export unrecyclable plastic waste illegally to other countries as well as firms that import recyclable plastic waste but fail to recycle or dispose of the waste in a “responsible and sustainable manner”.

The statement follows the Malaysian Government’s recent announcement to send back several thousand tonnes of imported plastic waste to the countries it came from, including the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The British High Commission in Malaysia said the UK’s Environment Agency works 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.

There are several enforcement options for those found exporting waste illegally, including criminal and financial sanctions. Individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste could face two years in jail or an unlimited fine.

The British High Commission in Malaysia added in a statement: “The UK Government, being a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, stands ready to work with the Malaysian authorities to repatriate any waste found to be shipped illegally to Malaysia.

“At the same time, work is underway in the UK to find ways to strengthen waste export management.”

It is also supporting the Malaysian Government in tackling the plastic waste problem in Kuala Lumpur, including sharing UK experience as well as collaborating with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) on research and development in future mitigation of plastic use.

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