Malaysia plans to send non-recyclable plastic back to the countries that sent it there, the country’s environment minister said Tuesday.
The Southeast Asian country became the top destination for plastic waste in 2018 after China stopped accepting imports, according to Reuters, with plastic waste imports jumping to 456,000 tonnes between January and July 2018 compared with 316,600 tones in all of 2017 and 168,500 tonnes in all of 2016.
“Developed countries must be responsible in what they send out,” Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister of energy, technology, science, climate change and environment told Reuters. She added that some of the waste sent to Malaysia violated the Basel Convention, an international treaty drafted to regulate the export of waste to developing countries.
The U.S., U.K., Japan and Australia are the top exporters of the material to Malaysia, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, most of which is contaminated and low-quality, therefore non-recyclable.
Yeo said Malaysia has already sent five containers of waste that had been smuggled into Malaysia to Spain, where it originated, according to Reuters. It is not clear who is responsible for the smuggling.
Plastic waste has become an increasingly contentious issue since China upset the global market with its import ban. Just last week, the Philippines recalled its ambassador and consuls in Canada after the country missed a deadline to take back plastic waste they had shipped to the Asian nation years ago.
Approximately 180 countries agreed to amend the Basel Convention to better regulate plastic waste trade, according to Reuters. The U.S. has not ratified the treaty.