Canada reaches out to Malaysia over returned waste

The Canadian government has reached out to Malaysia over waste shipments reportedly being returned to a number of countries, including Canada.

In late May, the Malaysian government announced it will send back 3,000 tonnes of contaminated waste to countries including the UK, America, Australia and Canada, after sixty shipping containers had been allegedly smuggled into illegal processing facilities in the country.

According to reports, the waste included cables from the UK, CDs from Bangladesh, contaminated milk cartons from Australia and electronic and household waste from North America, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China.

There are no plans for the Canadian government to pick up waste in Malaysia

In an email statement to Reuters news agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesman Gabrielle Lamontagne said Canada had “received no information” about any shipment of waste from Canada to Malaysia.

He said the ministry has “reached out” to the Malaysian government for details.

He said: “There are no plans for the Canadian government to pick up waste in Malaysia.”

The news follows the recent announcement that 1,500 tonnes of what was claimed as being “falsely labelled as plastic recycling waste” was being sent back to Canada from Manila.

Canada also announced this week that it intended to ban single use plastic by 2021.

UK Plastic Exports

The UK government recently said it “stands ready” to work with Malaysia over illegal waste exports.

The UK exports around twice as much plastic packaging for recycling as it processes domestically – almost all of it to Asia, according to a recent report by Greenpeace.

For years, most of this went to China, but since China banned these imports at the start of 2018, Malaysia has become the world’s top destination for plastic for recycling.

Between January and August 2018, the UK exported over 88,000 tonnes of plastic scrap to Malaysia – more than a quarter of the UK’s total plastic scrap exports. At the same time, the country has been inundated with plastic scrap from around the world, overloading its waste management system.

Last December, as China was preparing to ban plastic imports, environment secretary Michael Gove told the BBC that, in the long term, the UK would have to “stop offshoring our dirt.”

There are concerns the system of exporting waste could be inflating the UK’s recycling rates and failing to channel investment into recycling facilities in the UK.

Under EU recycling rules, materials can only be exported for recycling if they will be treated in broadly equivalent environmental conditions to how they would be handled in Europe.

A recent RECOUP report found 52% of local authorities have reported experiencing issues with plastic markets, with nearly half of these stating market values were being affected.

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