Waste exports to Malaysia increased by 81% in the first seven months of 2020, compared to the previous year, with 33,098 tonnes sent to the country, according to analysis.
The analysis from Greenpeace’s Unearthed suggests government trade data shows exports of plastic waste to a number of countries – including Malaysia, Romania and Vietnam – rose in the first half of the year.
However, overall, exports have declined – a drop which has been attributed to the Coronavirus.
Malaysia is the UK’s the second biggest market for waste, with Turkey now the UK’s biggest market for plastic waste exports, according to Unearthed.
The data suggests plastic waste exports to Thailand fell by 56% from January to July, while in Vietnam there was a jump to over 1,000 tonnes for the year up to July.
Romania and Serbia, also saw an increase in the amount of waste sent from the UK, taking more than 4,000 and 2,000 tonnes respectively, up from negligible amounts in 2019, according to the data.
The analysis comes months before new international rules to restrict the export of low quality plastic waste to non-members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) come into force in January.
Unearthed says the data shows that the UK sent 64,786 tonnes of plastic waste to non-OECD countries in the first seven months of 2020, the equivalent of more than 300 tonnes a day, despite pledging to stop sending plastic waste to non-OECD countries.
Overall, the figures show a 36% drop on the previous year, which Unearthed attributes to the Coronavirus.
Defra said the government plans to move ahead with its pledge to ban waste exports to non-OECD countries and to “introduce tougher controls on waste exports”
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the government plans to move ahead with its pledge to ban waste exports to non-OECD countries and to “introduce tougher controls on waste exports”.
In September this year, a new INTERPOL strategic report on global plastic waste management found an ‘alarming increase’ in illegal plastic pollution trade across the world since 2018.
The report indicated that there had been a considerable increase over the past two years in illegal waste shipments, primarily rerouted to South-East Asia via multiple transit countries to camouflage the origin of the waste shipment.
In January, it was reported that Malaysia planned to return 42 shipping containers of illegal plastic waste back to the UK.