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Greenpeace calls for plastics recycling investigation 

By 29/05/2020News

Environmental campaigner Greenpeace has called for an investigation into the plastics recycling industry after its studies found imports of the material from Europe has caused an “environmental crisis” in Malaysia.

Greenpeace’s report was released on 26 May

In a report, Recycling Myth 2.0, published on 27 May, the group claimed that since China introduced stricter measures on the importing of material in 2018, Malaysia has seen a huge increase in the amount of imported plastic, both legal and illegal.

Two years ago, Greenpeace said illegal dumpsites and burning facilities were “cropping up” in several parts of Malaysia to deal with material.

The group carried out a research project into these sites last year, and released the results of this on 27 May.


Samples of material covering large areas of the ground at sites where plastic wastes have been burned were found, said Greenpeace, to be “composed of shredded plastic, instead of soil”.

“Testing showed that these contained brominated flame retardants. In addition, they contained high concentrations of  heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, which can accumulate in the bodies of exposed communities and organisms over time. With long-term exposure, lead can cause damage to the brain and the nervous system, whereas cadmium can cause damage to the kidneys, lungs, and bones,” the report said.

Investigations were carried out collaboratively among Greenpeace offices both locally and internationally. These include Greenpeace teams from Malaysia, Germany, Hong Kong, and Italy as well as Greenpeace Research Laboratories in the United Kingdom.

‘Broken system’

Greenpeace says its findings highlight the “long-term effects of a broken recycling system”.

Dr Kevin Brigden, senior scientist from Greenpeace Research Laboratories, said: “When plastics are exported from one country to another they can bring with them a wide range of hazardous chemicals.

“Improper storage and treatment can later release these chemicals into the local environment, and burning can even generate new hazardous chemicals.”

The full report with all findings can be found here.


Based on the findings, Greenpeace recommends an investigation into the plastic waste industry “with a focus on possible corrupt, fraudulent and illegal practices by exporting countries and local unlicensed operators.”

Examination of water and soil samples from Malaysian plastic dumpsites in Exeter laboratory, the Greenpeace Research Lab.

Greenpeace has also called for enforcement of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the production of plastics by “regulating corporations that produce unnecessary single-use packaging for products”.

Among other recommendations based on the reports findings, was to prioritise a plastic pollution reduction plan in order to reduce single use plastic production, and to promote a global agreement to “combat the flood of plastic”.

Greenpeace campaigner Manfred Santen said: “Stronger regulations are needed to drastically reduce the production of unnecessary single-use plastic packaging , so waste does not need to be exported in the first place.”

He added: “The illegal dumping of plastic waste from over 19 countries worldwide has left an indelible mark on Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia


Back in January, the Malaysian government repatriated 150 containers of illegal plastic waste, weighting approximately 3,737 tonnes, of which the UK was the second worst offender of 42 countries.

The Malaysian environment minister said that the government was serious about “combating the import of illegal wastes” and preventing Malaysia becoming “the garbage bin of the world”. (see lets story)

Greenpeace added that the findings of the report were despite the closure of 218 illegal plastic recycling factories in 2019.

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Source: Plastic