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Malaysia announces return of unrecyclable waste

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A pile of plastic waste in the process of being treated
A pile of plastic waste in the process of being treated

Today there has been widespread coverage across BBC News, the Times, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times of an announcement by the Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin that Malaysia will repatriate more than 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste to the UK and other countries.

She announced yesterday (28 May) that inspections at Port Klang, Malaysia’s busiest port, had identified 60 shipping containers stacked with unrecyclable waste from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, France and Saudi Arabia.

There is a legitimate export market for plastics, particularly for countries that manufacture new products out of recycled plastic waste.

The 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 licenced and able to recycle it correctly. There are a range of enforcement options for those found to export waste illegally including criminal and financial sanctions.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

The UK is committed to tackling illegal waste exports, which is why individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two year jail term or an unlimited fine.

We are yet to receive a formal request from the Malaysian Authorities to repatriate any English waste, but discussions are ongoing to find ways to strengthen UK waste export management.

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