KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia took some decisive steps yesterday to reiterate the fact that it will not be the world’s dumping ground.
In an about-turn, the Sepang Municipal Council (SMC) revoked a six-month temporary operating licence issued to a plastic waste recycling factory, ordering the China-owned company to cease operations with immediate effect.
Earlier in the day, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin oversaw the shipping of 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste back to their countries of origin.
The SMC decision was made following a two-hour meeting between its deputy president Muhammad Hafiz Shaari and municipal councillors yesterday.
It is learnt that all 23 councillors unanimously objected to the factory’s operations in Sungai Pelek, Sepang, citing health and environmental hazards.
Sungai Pelek assemblyman Ronnie Liu described the move as commendable as the recycling process is detrimental to both the environment and humans.
“This is good news. We hope this does not come back to Sungai Pelek. We do not want any more licences to be issued for the processing of foreign plastic waste. I hope everyone, including officers of SMC, learns something from this. This is the victory of the people who had objected to the factory by staging two peaceful demonstrations,” he said.
SMC councillor P. Sivakumar, who was among those present at the meeting, said efforts to close down the factory had been made since last year.
“The council tried to shut down the place but the temporary licence was issued following the intervention of the Department of Enviroment (DOE),” he said.
“THE DoE should have consulted the local authorities and the people first before backing up such operations,” he told theSun.
SMC president Mohd Fauzi Mohd Yatim and his deputy, Muhammad Hafiz, declined comment when contacted.
Sungai Pelek Joint-Associations of Religious Houses president Joshua Tee, who led a protest with over 200 residents opposite the factory on Sunday, lauded SMC for being sensitive to the concerns of the people.
However, he said residents will continue to stay alert and monitor the factory to ensure its operations do not resume.
At yesterday morning’s event in Port Klang, Yeo said the plastic waste were being shipped back to Australia, the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and Bangladesh.
The waste, in 10 containers, are only the first batch. The plan is to return a total of 3,000 tonnes of such waste that have found their way into the country.
An additional 50 containers will be sent back to their countries of origin once the necessary inspections have been completed.
Yeo described the importers of contaminated plastic waste as “traitors” to the country’s sustainability, adding that action will be taken against them.
“Garbage is traded under the pretext of recycling. Malaysians are forced to breathe in poor quality air thanks to the open burning of plastics. This is a health hazard. Rivers are polluted and there are illegal landfills, apart from other problems.”
Yeo said the companies involved have been given 14 days to ship the waste out of Malaysia. Legal action will be taken against those who fail to comply.
She urged developed countries to rethink their waste management approach.
“Companies that preach recycling are the ones dumping garbage on developing countries.”
She said investigations revealed that a recycling company in the United Kingdom has been exporting plastic waste to Malaysia regularly over the past two years.
“They have already sent more than 1,000 containers or 50,000 metric tonnes of garbage here,” she said.
“We are compiling a list of errant recycling companies in developed countries and we will send the list to their governments for further action.”