Plastic recycling, manufacturing firms urge easing of waste import ban

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 April 2021:

The Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) and Malaysian Plastics Recyclers Association (MPRA) have urged the government to ease up on the ban for plastic waste imports and processing.

In a joint statement, they said: “The reality is that it is unsustainable to eliminate all types of plastics from our daily lives. In this regard, a blanket ban is not viable. Malaysia should therefore focus on managing plastics in a more sustainable manner, rather than completely banning its production and usage.”

They explained the import of clean, homogenous plastic scraps is well-regulated under the Basel Convention and will not have detrimental effects on the environment.

“Because these scraps are clean, there is no contamination discharged into the environment. Because these scraps are valuable and costly, no recycler would dump these scraps into rivers or landfill.”

They said legitimate recyclers already comply with 18 stringent rules and regulations. Legal recycling factories are closely monitored and require approvals from various agencies including the Department of Environment (DoE) and Jabatan Pengurusan Sisa Pepejal Negara (JPSPN).

“Legitimate recycling plants have invested in equipment and machinery that can safely handle clean, homogenous plastic scrap materials. In our certified, regulated facilities, these materials are recycled in an environmentally sound manner as required by the Basel Convention.

“The industry also has accepted the imposition of the RM20 per tonne levy to help defray the cost of enforcement including port inspections of containers. This levy is in addition to complying with the 18 new stringent rules and regulations that came into force after the sampah plastik controversy blew up in 2018.”

Noting the Basel Convention amendment – which took force in January 2021 – regulates transboundary movement of plastics recycleable materials, the associations said sampah plastik that is soiled and contaminated cannot be shipped to Malaysia without DoE’s prior consent.

“Legitimate recyclers do not import or use sampah plastik. Legal recyclers use clean, homogeneous recyclable materials as classified under the Basel Convention, for example, industrial scrap from the manufacture of car bumpers. These materials are then turned into recycled plastics pellets that would be used to make another product.”

Still they admit the Malaysian plastics industry acknowledges that plastics pollution is real and action must be taken expeditiously.

“The way forward is to develop a circular economy which reuses instead of discarding materials. This can be done through developing a more comprehensive waste management system, not just locally but globally. With better waste management solutions and policies, plastic materials will be captured for recycling or properly disposed of and not end up in the environment.

MPMA and MPRA is firmly committed to the principle that plastics do not belong in the environment. Plastics should be used responsibly, reused and recycled. Without the recycling sector, Malaysia will not be able to develop into a sustainable economy and create new value to benefit society and environment.”

Established in 1967, MPMA currently has about 800 members – which represent about 60% of plastics manufacturers in the country and account for 80% of the country’s total production of plastics products. Formed in 2014, MPRA plays a key role in building a sustainable platform for the plastics recycling industry and supports sustainable practices and education.