UK position on shipments of plastic waste to Malaysia

The UK stands with Malaysia on the issue of illegal trade in plastic waste - by repatriating waste shipped illegally out of UK and collaborate on R&D.


The British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur is deeply concerned about the illegal trade in plastic waste. This includes recent reports of potentially illegal plastic waste exported from the UK to Malaysia.


While we recognise that there is a legitimate export market for plastics - particularly for countries that manufacture new products out of recycled plastic waste, we condemn companies which export unrecyclable plastic waste illegally, as well as companies which import recyclable plastic waste but fail to recycle or dispose of the waste in a responsible and sustainable manner.


To tackle illegal waste exports from the UK, the Environment Agency works closely with businesses that export waste to countries such as Malaysia to ensure that waste exported for recycling is uncontaminated and only sent to overseas facilities that are correctly licensed and able to recycle it correctly. There are a range of enforcement options for those found exporting waste illegally including criminal and financial sanctions. Individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two year jail term or an unlimited fine.


The UK Government, being a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, stands ready to work with the Malaysian authorities to repatriate any waste found to be shipped illegally to Malaysia. At the same time, work is underway in the UK to find ways to strengthen waste export management.


Meanwhile the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur is also supporting the Malaysian Government in tackling the plastic waste problem. This includes sharing the UK experience as well as collaborating with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) in Malaysia on research and development in future mitigation of plastic use.


For further reading


The UK Government has committed up to £70 million to tackle plastic pollution, including boosting global research and helping developing countries find new ways of collecting and recycling plastic waste.


Our landmark Resources and Waste Strategy, launched in December 2018, will boost our domestic recycling market and put together controls on the waste that we export. This will build on the success of our:


  • 5p carrier bag charge which has taken 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation;


  • ban on plastic microbeads in rinse-off products; and


  • plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers.