Blanket ban on plastic waste will hurt legal recyclers, say industry players

A container with imported plastic is seen in Port Klang May 28, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
A container with imported plastic is seen in Port Klang May 28, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 29 — Plastics manufacturers and recyclers have decried calls from environmental activists to fully ban the import of “plastics waste” today, saying such a move cannot address smuggling activities.

In a joint statement, the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) and Malaysia Plastic Recyclers Association (MPRA) claimed such demands are unnecessary, ill-considered, and will harm law-abiding manufacturers and businesses.

“Recycling done by legal operators is supporting both local and foreign brands in sectors such as electrical and electronics, automotive and other manufacturing sectors as well as in the construction industry.  

“A total ban would bring Malaysia’s participation in the global circular economy to a halt,” the two groups said.

“Recycling plays a vital role in protecting the environment and properly managing and disposing of waste. As an economic activity, recycling is in fact crucial to creating new value that benefits society and contributes to sustainability,” they added.

The groups also chided activists for lumping permitted imports and smuggled wastes together, which they said may create the perception that legal firms are breaking the law by importing plastics for their business.

Instead, the groups said they fully support Putrajaya’s efforts to increase enforcement actions against smugglers, and the crackdown on illegal recycling operations.

“We reiterate our stand that Malaysia has no place for other countries’ rubbish, and that we should not become the developed world’s dumping ground,” the groups said.

“We continue to support and are ready to assist the Government in their efforts to crack down on these unscrupulous and illegal operators and to protect the environment.

“We also call for a proper forum to properly discuss a robust, effective regulatory framework for this industry and Malaysia’s role in the circular economy where the redeployment and reuse of resources is a key organising principle,” they added.

Yesterday, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, Yeo Bee Yin said Malaysia will be shipping out 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste imported illegally from countries like UK, US, and China.

Malaysia last year became the leading alternative destination for plastic scrap after China banned imports of such waste, disrupting the flow of more than seven million tonnes of plastic scrap a year.

Dozens of recycling factories cropped up in Malaysia, many without an operating licence, with residents complaining of environmental damage.

Most of the plastic scrap coming into the country is contaminated and comprises low-quality plastic from developed countries that is non-recyclable.

MPMA was established in 1967 and has some 800 members. It represents about 60 per cent of plastics manufacturers in the country.

MPRA was formed in 2014 to spur the growth of the plastic recycling industry, and act as a medium with the government and regulators.

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