CAP’s Work and Action on the Plastic Waste Trade

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Friends of the Earth Malaysia are members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and also Break Free from Plastic.

In 2017, our organisation through a GAIA project had started research on the impacts of waste trade, tracking the movement of plastic waste globally. During that time there was news about containers of waste left abandoned in the ports in Malaysia.

Upon learning of China’s notification to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in mid-2017 regarding China’s intention to impose a ban on 24 types of waste including plastic waste imports, and anticipating cascading problems to Malaysia, we cautioned the Malaysian government that Malaysia may become the next destination for these wastes.

We got a response from the department that was in charge, saying that it had formulated specific rules to control plastic waste imports and will impose stringent requirements on premises and import licences. However, the control measures and enforcement were proven not adequate, based on waste dumping and mushrooming of illegal recycling factories in many parts of Malaysia, especially near the sea ports. This happened in 2018, not only in Malaysia but also other South East Asian countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.

Communities and civil society organizations started highlighting the adverse impacts of the waste dumping on their health and the environment. Some of the waste that could not be recycled were just dumped in remote areas and some were burned. Besides the air pollution and burning, our soils and water bodies were also polluted.

This was an urgent issue that we addressed as we do not want our country to bear the brunt of the waste trade.