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A Malaysian official inspects a container filled with plastic waste shipment prior to sending it to the Westport in Port Klang, Malaysia, on May 28, 2019.

Vincent Thian/The Associated Press

Malaysia will send back some 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia in a move to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich countries, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Tuesday.

Ms. Yeo said Malaysia and many developing countries have become new targets after China banned the import of plastic waste last year.

Last week, the Philippines said it would ship back dozens of containers of garbage that Philippine officials said were illegally shipped to the country from Canada in 2013 to 2014.

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Ms. Yeo said 60 containers stacked with contaminated waste were smuggled in en route to illegal processing facilities in Malaysia and will be sent back to their countries of origin.

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Ten of the containers are set to be shipped back within two weeks, she said, as she showed reporters contents of the waste at a port outside Kuala Lumpur.

The displayed items included cables from Britain, contaminated milk cartons from Australia and compact discs from Bangladesh, as well as bales of electronic and household waste from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China. Ms. Yeo said the waste from China appeared to be garbage from France and other countries that had been rerouted after a ban imposed by China.

In one case alone, Ms. Yeo said a British recycling company exported more than 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste in about 1,000 containers to Malaysia over the past two years.

“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg [due] to the banning of plastic waste by China,” Ms. Yeo told a news conference. “Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world … we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we can’t be bullied by developed countries.”

The government has clamped down on dozens of illegal plastic recycling facilities that had mushroomed across the country, shuttering more than 150 plants since last July. Earlier this month, the government also sent back five containers of waste to Spain.

Ms. Yeo said China’s plastic waste ban had “opened up the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem.”

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How the top 5 importers of Canadian

plastics changed after China’s ban

Tonnes of imported plastic waste,

by province of origin

Origin of imported plastics

Ont.

Que.

B.C.

Alta.

N.S.

Man.

Sask.

N.B.

2017

2018

Each cube represents 100 tonnes of plastics

UNITED STATES

114,400

tonnes

113,500

CHINA

In 2018, China prohibited the import of 24 categories of recyclable materials, including eight types of plastic.

25,800

1,000

HONG KONG

22,900

6,600

MALAYSIA

After China’s ban on waste imports, Malaysia became the second largest importer of Canadian plastic waste in 2018

10,300

11,200

INDIA

7,700

6,400

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

STATISTICS CANADA; GREENPEACE

How the top 5 importers of Canadian plastics

changed after China’s ban

Tonnes of imported plastic waste, by province of origin

Origin of imported plastics

Ont.

Que.

B.C.

Alta.

N.S.

Man.

Sask.

N.B.

2017

2018

Each cube represents 100 tonnes of plastics

UNITED STATES

114,400

tonnes

113,500

CHINA

In 2018, China prohibited the import of 24 categories of recyclable materials, including eight types of plastic.

25,800

1,000

HONG KONG

22,900

6,600

MALAYSIA

After China’s ban on waste imports, Malaysia became the second largest importer of Canadian plastic waste in 2018

10,300

11,200

INDIA

6,400

7,700

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

STATISTICS CANADA; GREENPEACE

How the top 5 importers of Canadian plastics changed after China’s ban

Tonnes of imported plastic waste, by province of origin

Origin of imported plastics

Ont.

Que.

B.C.

Alta.

N.S.

Man.

Sask.

N.B.

2017

2018

Each cube represents 100 tonnes of plastics

UNITED STATES

114,400

tonnes

113,500

CHINA

In 2018, China prohibited the import of 24 categories of recyclable materials, including eight types of plastic.

25,800

1,000

HONG KONG

6,600

22,900

MALAYSIA

After China’s ban on waste imports, Malaysia became the second largest importer of Canadian plastic waste in 2018

10,300

11,200

INDIA

6,400

7,700

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA; GREENPEACE

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to forcibly ship back dozens of containers of garbage to Canada and his government recalled its ambassador and consuls in Canada over Ottawa’s failure to comply with a May 15 deadline to take back the garbage.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the Canadian government had awarded a contract to French shipping giant Bollore Logistics Canada that calls for the return of 69 containers filled with household waste and electronic garbage to Canada by the end of June.

The Philippines, however, rejected Canada’s plan. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government will proceed with a plan to look for a private shipping company to rapidly transport the garbage to Canada.

Philippine officials were assessing separate shipments from Hong Kong and Australia that environmental activists said allegedly contained garbage and should be sent back to their points of origin.

In Port Klang, Ms. Yeo said citizens in rich countries diligently separate their waste for recycling, but the garbage ended up being dumped in developing countries where they are recycled illegally, causing environmental and health hazards, she said.

“We urge the developed countries to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping the garbage out to the developing countries,” she said, calling such practices “unfair and uncivilized.”

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Ms. Yeo vowed to take action against Malaysian companies illegally importing used plastic, calling them “traitors to the country’s sustainability.”

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