‘This is not about money, it’s about dignity’: Malaysia just named and shamed 13 countries for secretly dumping trash on it, including the US, UK, and Singapore

Plastic waste piled outside an illegal recycling factory in Jenjarom, Malaysia.
  • By the middle of this year, Malaysia will have sent 260 shipping containers’ worth of illegally dumped plastic waste back to its original owners.

  • This waste, which China stopped accepting in 2018, is costly and troublesome to dispose of.

  • It named and shamed 13 culprits in a Facebook post on Jan 20, including France, Japan, and Canada.

  • Environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said the country would no longer be a dumping ground.

  • “If people want to see us as the rubbish dump of the world, you dream on,” she said.

After sending back almost 4,000 tonnes – or 150 shipping containers – of waste back to its original owners last year, Malaysia remains on the warpath against plastic waste illegally delivered to its shores, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin announced in a press conference on Monday (Jan 20).

After China banned imports in 2018, Malaysia became the top destination for plastic waste from developed nations, with illegal importers making false declarations and concealing the waste among genuine recyclable plastic.

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Posted by Yeo Bee Yin(杨美盈) on Sunday, 19 January 2020

In a Facebook post, the minister named and shamed 13 countries found to have secretly sent this waste – which is costly and troublesome to dispose of – to Malaysia.

They are (in order of quantity): France, the United Kingdom, The United States, Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Lithuania.


Posted by Yeo Bee Yin(杨美盈) on Sunday, 19 January 2020

In her caption, Yeo said the waste did not have import permits, and the identified countries contravened the United Nations’ Basel Convention, which asks nations to minimise the amount of waste they transport and dispose of it near its origin.

She added that the Malaysian Government would “take appropriate action to ensure that Malaysia does not become a global waste bin”.

According to a Bernama report, Yeo said another 110 containers of plastic waste would be sent back to their countries of origin by the middle of this year. Each container weighs 20 tonnes.

In the report, she added that return costs would be borne by shipping liners and importers, and Malaysia would not pay a cent.

Bernama quoted Yeo as saying: “This is not about money, it is about dignity, and Malaysia cannot become the world’s dumping ground.”

In a Straits Times (ST) report, she added: “(When) people dump their rubbish into your country, you are not supposed to pay them to send it back. No matter how difficult, we are going to send (the containers) back, and we are going to make people who export here, and the shipping liners, pay for it.”

News wire agency Associated Press quoted Yeo as saying: “If people want to see us as the rubbish dump of the world, you dream on.”

Read also: Staggering photos show one small Malaysian town covered in 19,000 tons of plastic waste

In an earlier press conference on Jan 13, Bernama reported that Yeo had called Malaysia’s move to send back the plastic waste, “world history”.

She said: “This is the first time a country has massively shipped back containers of plastic waste to the originating countries. Although it has taken us a long time, we have achieved what other countries have failed to do.”

Following her latest announcement, delighted Malaysians flooded social media with grateful comments thanking the minister for working despite being in the final trimester of her pregnancy.

Others asked if the Government planned to penalise the importers in court.

“Thank you, you did what was needed for the rakyat (ordinary people),” said Facebook user Cecilia Chia, while fellow netizen Ahmad Afiq asked the minister to “hold those traitors who brought all this rubbish accountable”.

Some social media users from the identified countries also apologised, saying they did not know where the waste had been sent overseas.

A Twitter user named Jenny Oad said: “I’m just one Canadian who thought they were doing the right thing when recycling. I didn’t know my country would ship it to you. You deserve better. I’m sorry, Malaysia.”

Another commenter named Teixas wrote: “As a Portuguese, thank you for sending (the waste) back! I’m sorry, hope other countries do the same, if that’s what’s needed for the so called ‘developed countries’ to change their ways.”

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