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Malaysia: Plastics

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL226, tabled on 8 January 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the illegal shipment of plastic waste from the UK to Malaysia, following the decision by the government of China to ban any international plastic waste being processed within mainland China.

Answered on

22 January 2020

The Government is deeply concerned about the illegal trade in waste, including reports of illegal plastic waste exported from the UK to Malaysia. Recognising the difficulties experienced by some countries in managing imports of plastic waste, the Queen’s Speech on the 19 December included a commitment to ban the export of polluting plastic wastes to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). We will consult this year on the date by which this should be achieved.

We are working closely with the Malaysian Government to support the return of 42 improperly documented containers of plastic waste. In addition, the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur is currently supporting the Malaysian Government in tackling the wider plastic waste problem. This includes sharing UK experience as well as collaborating with the Malaysian Government in developing a Malaysian version of a Plastics Pact (a cross stakeholder grouping) to drive more effective management of plastic and plastic wastes. My department and the British High Commission also facilitated a technical meeting in Kuala Lumpur between UK and Malaysian enforcement authorities to improve plastic waste export/import protocols.

While we acknowledge that there is a legitimate export market for plastic waste as a secondary raw material, we take firm action to enforce against those engaged in the illegal export of contaminated, low quality and unrecyclable plastic wastes.

Compliance with the legislation on waste shipments is monitored by the UK’s four environmental regulators[1]. In England in 2018/19 the Environment Agency inspected almost 1,000 shipping containers at ports and returned over 200 of those to sites. During this period, the Environment Agency also prevented 12,000 tonnes of waste from reaching ports which may have otherwise been exported illegally. Any operators found to be illegally exporting waste can face severe sanctions – from financial penalties to imprisonment for a period of up to two years.

[1] The Environment Agency in England, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales