Malaysian circular economy roadmap for plastics to be launched by 2020

Unregulated waste facility in Jenjarom, Malaysia. Picture credit: Greenpeace

Malaysia is set to publish a circular economy roadmap for plastics.

The roadmap will be introduced “by 2020”, as part of the 2018-2030 roadmap towards zero single-use plastics, according to reports by The Malaysian Reserve.

The roadmap aims to provide a direction for policy and stakeholders – including state governments.

The International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said Malaysia is now preparing to “take the next step towards sustainability”.

We must address the issue of human behaviour, and not demonise any particular material or industry

“The potential for the circular economy and recycling is huge, and the government will ensure Malaysia does not miss out,” he said.

There is currently no uniform approach to address single-use plastics in Malaysia, and a recent investigation by Greenpeace claimed the developed world’s plastics are finding their way into countries in Southeast Asia that “don’t have the capacity to deal with it”.

Ong said: “To progress towards a circular economy and to develop sustainably while protecting the environment, Malaysia needs a feasible, effective and advanced waste management system for the country.”

“We must address the issue of human behaviour, and not demonise any particular material or industry,” he said.

Plastics in Malaysia

The plastic sector in Malaysia generated nearly RM31 billion Malaysian ringgit in revenue last year.

47%, or some RM14.56 billion, was generated from exports.

As of March 2019, more than 1,500 manufacturing projects in the plastics industries, with investments valued over RM18 billion, have been implemented in Malaysia.

These projects have created more than 103,000 employment opportunities in the country, according to the The Malaysian Reserve.

The announcement follows a report published last week (14 Nov) by the UN Environment Programme, which found plastic policies were “lagging” in Southeast Asia.

Over half of the land-based plastic pollution in the world’s oceans originates from just five countries, four of which are in Southeast Asia.

This pollution has more than an environmental impact – plastic litter in the Asia-Pacific region alone costs its tourism, fishing and shipping industries $1.3 billion per year.

Plastic imports

In late May this year, 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.

The UK government responded by saying 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.

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