Hundreds of sacks filled with plastic waste from the United States, Britain, South Korea and Spain spill onto the streets of an industrial zone in Pulau Indah, an island town an hour from Kuala Lumpur that is home to Malaysia's biggest port.

The stench of burning plastic and fumes from nearly a dozen recycling factories wafts through the neighborhood.

Pulau Indah — the name means "beautiful island" in Malay — is one of many towns where illegal plastic recycling factories have popped up in recent months as Malaysia became the top choice for plastic waste exporters from around the world.