Malaysian government cracks down on unlicensed recyclers
Photo by Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC).

Malaysian government cracks down on unlicensed recyclers

Arrests and facility shutdowns target plastic recycling, including wire and cable.

April 29, 2019

Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) government continues to raid and shut down unlicensed plastic recycling facilities in that nation in an effort to slow a rising tide of imported scrap materials.

An April 23 notice posted to the ministry’s website (in Malay) says on that day it opened containers in Port Klang, Malaysia, that contained what it calls unwanted materials commingled with plastic scrap.

A series of photos accompanying the announcement shows an open container loaded with what appears to be plastic-coated wire and cable, presumably with marketable and copper or aluminum within. MESTECC says it cooperated with two other government agencies and the port’s operating companies to identify and open the containers.

“This is in line with the Ministry’s target and initiative to double the overall enforcement against plastic scrap recycling plants, especially illegal ones,” writes MESTECC. “In addition, this operation is also to prevent Malaysia from becoming the host of ‘dirty plastic waste’ from other countries, especially developed countries. Plastic waste entering our country has led to an increase in environmental pollution levels lately,” the agency states.

MESTECC says in operations it has carried out since April 11, 2019, out of 300 plastic scrap recycling plants inspected in different parts of Malaysia, 148 of them were found in violation to the extent they were temporarily or permanently shut down.

An April 24 CNN online article refers to media access to one such MESTECC raid in which “dozens of laborers and factory operators [sat] hand-cuffed in rows on the pavement at an industrial park in Malaysia.”

Accusations against the unlicensed operators have included the stockpiling and illegal dumping of residual materials, polluting fluids leaking into creeks and rivers, and sub-standard working conditions at some plants.

The crackdown on plastics processors has caused concerns in the nonferrous metals recycling sector as well. One trader tells Recycling Today rumors are swirling that the Malaysian ministry is about to or has already banned the importing of plastic-coated wire and cable.

The photo of the container of wire and cable used as a backdrop to the Malaysian ministry’s crackdown press release is likely abetting those fears.

Currently, several recycling companies are licensed and approved to import and process those materials in Malaysia. Traders are anxious to find out whether the licensed facilities can continue with their activities or whether an all-encompassing ban will be added to go beyond the crackdown on unlicensed operators.