Yeo Bee Yin moots RM1,500 charge per shipping container to cut illegal imported plastic waste

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the government will go after the illegal importers and hit them where they will really feel pain — their wallets. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the government will go after the illegal importers and hit them where they will really feel pain — their wallets. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Those found to import plastic waste into Malaysia without permission will be put on a black list and will be made to pay a hefty price to retrieve each of the shipping containers and send them back, minister Yeo Bee Yin warned.

The minister of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change noted that the current environmental laws were outdated and allowed for a maximum fine of only RM100,000, a penalty she deemed too low to scare such importers from smuggling in contraband waste.

In an interview with 8TV’s Global Watch programme last night, she said the government will go after the illegal importers and hit them where they will really feel pain — their wallets.

“Now at the port, you wait, if you have so many containers, I will keep them there.

“If you want to retrieve it and bring it out, I will open each of them. Opening one will be RM1,500, if you illegally brought it in, you have to ship it back, the entire process costs a few million ringgit. To give them a lesson this way, because expenses to ship back is high,” she said in the late night programme conducted in Mandarin.

She noted that the illegal importers would have to bear the storage cost of the containers at the ports.

“You can’t immediately send it back, you have to store it at the port, it costs money every day, this is how we will tackle these traitors. It will be more effective, secondly, it will be faster and they can ship these out

“If you want to charge them, Malaysia is a democratic country, our legal and judicial process is long, so it will be slower. So we want them to ship it out, they will feel the pain.

“And we will blacklist them, so many of them of them are the same people doing it, we will put these people in the blacklist,” she added.

Yeo said the government has already identified these importers and are monitoring them, noting that this was a relatively new issue as plastic waste was not shipped into the country in the past.

On Tuesday, Yeo announced that 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste in 10 containers that were imported illegally into Malaysia would be returned to the countries from where they were shipped out from.

She had then said the “traitors” or companies who brought the rubbish in will have 14 days to answer the allegations and will also have to pay for the expenses of storing and shipping the plastic waste back to the countries of origin.

By the end of this year, a total of 3,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste from approximately 50 containers are expected to be shipped back to their countries of origin once inspections are complete.

In the same interview late last night, Yeo confirmed that the countries from which the contaminated plastic waste are shipped out from cannot refuse the return of the rubbish.

“They cannot, because of Basel Convention’s Article 4, paragraph 11, the relevant country can for the sake of the environment, set a stand, if you feel this is dirty, unwanted, you can send it back, the country of origin must accept,” she said.

“They cannot not accept it, because they are the countries of origin,” she stressed.

The provision in the Basel Convention cited by Yeo states that nothing in the international agreement will prevent a country from imposing additional requirements consistent with the convention’s provisions and the rules of international law, to better “protect human health and environment”.

Citing the example of one of the 10 containers recently shipped out from Malaysia, Yeo noted that the container was marked as coming from China but actually containing plastic waste from France.

Yeo said Malaysia would return the container to China and that it would be left to China to identify which country the waste actually originated from.

“Because the country responsible is the country from whose port it came from, we send it back to the door,” she said.