KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia is negotiating with countries sending their plastic waste to the Southeast Asian nation to take back the trash and is waiving storage fees to clear hundreds of containers of scrap stranded at ports across the country for months, officials say.
Malaysia last year became the world’s main destination for plastic waste after China banned imports of scrap.
The Southeast Asian country upped scrutiny after huge inflows and stopped many containers that looked to unload scrap in Malaysia without the required permits, officials from the port and the government told Reuters this week.
Over 300 containers carrying plastic waste from Japan, Hong Kong, Europe, Canada and the United States are being held at the port in Penang state, one of the busiest in the country, said Phee Boon Poh, the state government official in charge of the environment.
Some countries have agreed in principle to take back a total of 200 containers, and the modalities are being worked out, Phee and Penang Port Chief Executive Sasedharan Vasudevan said.
Over 100 containers are also being held at Kuching port, on Borneo island, and some are in the process of being returned to the source country, an official with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Malaysia had vowed earlier this year to send plastic waste back to the source country and get them to pay for the transportation costs.
Environment Minister Yeo Been Yin said this month three countries will take back 89 containers, local media reported.
Her ministry did not have an immediate comment on Thursday.
Penang Port’s Vasudevan said some of the containers will also be cleared after the government reissued permits to Malaysian importers of the scrap and the port agreed to waive months’ of unpaid storage fees — accumulated as a result of not being allowed to offload the cargo.
“Buyers have abandoned it because the cost of retrieving it has become expensive,” Vasudevan said, adding that some of the containers at the port have been there for almost a year.