Last month, Malaysian port officials discovered 110 import containers filled with toxic waste at the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, and they are making plans to ship it all back to its country of origin.
The containers originated in Romania and were filled with misdeclared goods, according to Malaysian environment minister Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man. Their contents were listed as zinc concentrate, but they were actually filled with a combined 1,800 tonnes of electric arc furnace dust (EAFD).
EAFD – a byproduct created by steel mills when melting down metal scrap for recycling – is classified as toxic waste, as it often contains heavy metals like cobalt, lead and cadmium. Its international transport is regulated under the Basel Convention.
“[Malaysia’s Department of Environment] as the Basel Convention authority has not granted approval for or received notifications from the waste exporter to transit in Malaysia,” Tuan Ibrahim told state-backed Bernama News.
According to Tuan Ibrahim, the intercept occurred with the assistance of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), ABC Tradex Company and Maersk. The department has contacted authorities in Romania to make arrangements for shipping the waste back to its origin, and it has asked Interpol for an investigation. “I would like to assert that Malaysia takes a zero tolerance approach to any illegal entry of toxic waste into this country,” he said in a statement.
Tuan Ibrahim said that it was just one of 28 cases of illegal waste importation that Malaysian authorities have disrupted so far this year.
When China closed its borders to most waste imports in 2017, Malaysia became a leading destination for off-specification waste shipments – notably contaminated plastic waste for illegal and unregulated recycling, a notoriously polluting industry. Its government has been pushing back on the practice, closing unpermitted recycling plants and shipping boxes of dirty waste back to the country of origin.
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