KUALA LUMPUR, 13 April — Vilifying legal plastic recyclers in the country along with illegal operators will hurt legitimate businesses and undermine environmental conservation efforts here, said two plastics associations.
The Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) and the Malaysian Plastics Recyclers Association (MPRA) said that recent statements universally criticising plastics and recycling were damaging the country's push to develop a circular economy and a comprehensive solution to plastics pollution.
They argued that Malaysia’s multinational and domestic manufacturers are facing tougher sustainability targets in export markets where consumers and governments are putting the circular economy into practice.
"Legitimate recyclers support the national economy by providing recycled plastics as raw material to sectors such as electrical and electronics, automotive, furniture, food and construction.
"Malaysia must invest in developing a circular economy, to eliminate waste and pollution. Without the recycling sector, the country will not be able to develop into a sustainable economy and create new value to benefit society and the environment," the associations said in a statement.
MPMA and MPRA said that the amended Basel Convention, which came into force on January 1 this year, now regulates transboundary movements of plastic waste from export to import.
"Plastic waste cannot be shipped here from exporting countries without the prior written consent of the Department of Environment (DoE) which is Malaysia’s competent authority for notification.
"Numerous regulatory and enforcement agencies are coordinating their actions to prevent the entry of plastic waste under these new regulations. These include the Customs Department, National Solid Waste Management, port authorities, and Solid Waste Management Agency, among others," they said.
The associations added that the DoE is informed of imports of clean, homogenous plastic scrap material which are properly imported by the legitimate recyclers.
"We have even accepted the imposition of the RM20 per tonne levy to help defray the cost of enforcement including port inspections of containers. This levy is in addition to 18 new stringent rules and regulations which we must comply with.
"We will also continue to support and assist the government in efforts to crack down on unscrupulous and illegal operators, and to protect the environment," they said.
As such, the MPMA and MPRA said that indiscriminately calling for blanket bans delays and obstructs the development of a circular economy and sustainability in Malaysia.
At the end of last month a World Bank report revealed that at least 70 per cent of plastic recycled in the country is estimated to be imported scrap.
The report stated that Malaysian plastic recyclers rely on imported scrap since the material is often cheaper.