Since 2015 only 9% of plastic waste worldwide has been recycled, an environmental watchdog official said on Thursday.
Heng Kiah Chun, Greenpeace’s project coordinator in Malaysia, said the majority of the plastic waste that ends up in Malaysia comes from developed countries.
“Based on our research, most of the plastic waste was brought into Malaysia through illegal means from developed countries such as U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan,” he said, adding that most of these plastics are non-recyclable.
In total, over 626,000 metric tons of plastic wastes from 19 countries were smuggled into Malaysia last year, Heng said.
Malaysia’s government shut down around 150 outlawed recycling facilities that caused heavy pollution by throwing non-recyclable waste into rivers in rural areas or by simply burning it, he said.
“Malaysia should not be a dumping site for others," he added, calling on developed countries to take responsibility for their own waste.
Heng said garbage incineration has caused health problems in Malaysia such as asthma and other chronic lung, heart, and kidney diseases.
- Recycling myth
A permanent cure for the problem, according to Heng, is to reduce single-use plastic items.
“Governments, including Malaysia’s, should make more efforts to minimize the consumption of disposable plastic products. Companies should pick reusable items in their packaging process,” he urged.
The Greenpeace Malaysia Office called its 2019 report “The Recycling Myth” because most people believe that all plastic wastes are recyclable, he explained.
He said the packaging process that uses disposable plastic material brought throw-away culture along with it when it spread worldwide in the 1980s. He called on the world to renounce throw-away culture.
The world produced 8.3 million metric tons of plastic waste from 1950 to 1971, and over the last 60 years annual plastic production has risen 200-fold, Heng said.
As of 2015, an average of over 1 ton of plastic was produced per person in the world, he said.
According to Greenpeace data, since 2015 only 9% of global plastic waste has been recycled. Around 12% of this waste was compacted in landfills, and 79% was thrown directly into nature.
Recycling is not a permanent solution to plastic problem, as unnecessary use should be the chief concern, he said, adding that every country should do their part to solve this global environmental issue.
“We found that a lot of plastic waste doesn’t actually belong here,” Heng said.
“We ask these countries, why do you send us this garbage if it was recyclable?”
By Omer Faruk Yildiz in Kuala Lumpur