MANILA - Environmental advocates in Asia on Wednesday expressed concern on the status of global waste trade in the region, saying bad practices are still being observed despite the introduction of some reforms.
Speaking in a virtual press briefing, Mageswari Sangaralingam of Consumers Association of Penang said plastic waste imports in Malaysia increased from 333,500 tons in 2019, to 478,092 tons in 2020, despite the waste import ban.
"Although the Malaysian government said there is a ban on import waste, in reality, they were issuing a proof permits for imports of plastic waste," she said.
Recycling plants or factories also continue to proliferate, she said. "This is a cause for concern, because burning off plastics will emit toxic gases, including those that can cause cancer."
Ray Yeung, Green Earth's campaign and communications manager in Hong Kong, said that while the island-city may not be a "dumping ground" of waste imports after China banned it in 2017, "it has been a major free port for the exporting of plastic waste in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand", thereby violating "environmental justice".
As a result, other countries particularly in Southeast Asia have become alternate dumping grounds.
"In 2020, Hong Kong re-exports 100,000 tons of plastic wastes equivalent to 5,000 containers in Southeast [Asia] countries, including Malaysia," said Yeung.
To improve the situation around the world, environmentalists called for data transparency through community and media involvement to push governments to beef up their roles on plastic waste trade.