Malaysia has reported illegal imports of trash including plastic waste and toxic materials since 2019. File Photo by Fazry Ismail/EPA-EFE
July 20 (UPI) -- Malaysia is returning more than 1,800 tons of toxic waste to Romania after local authorities discovered the shipping containers of hazardous materials at the Port of Tanjung Pelepas.
The containers, 110 in total, include 1,864 tons of electric arc furnace dust, a toxic byproduct of steelmaking. The containers first came to the attention of authorities on June 3, Malaysia's Bernama news agency reported Sunday.
Malaysian Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said local authorities had intercepted 28 attempts to illegally import toxic waste in the first half of 2020.
"The discovery of the EAFD, on transit in Malaysia and bound for Indonesia, is the biggest finding of its kind in Malaysian history," Tuan Man said.
The containers shipped to Romania were falsely declared as concentrated zinc. Malaysia has asked Interpol to investigate the illegal shipments, CNN reported Monday.
Malaysia is a member of the Basel Convention, which oversees the movement of toxic materials across borders. The global garbage-dumping crisis has become a major headache for Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia, as countries in the West have increasingly sought to dump their waste overseas.
In 2019, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare war against Canada after accusing the Canadian government of dumping garbage.
In January, Malaysia sent 4,120 tons of plastic waste back to 13 countries in the developed world, including 43 containers filled with garbage back to France, according to Kuala Lumpur.
"If people want to see us as the rubbish dump of the world, you dream on," then-Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said at the time.
In 2018, China prohibited plastic waste imports, leading in the rise of trash shipments to ASEAN member states. In May, Malaysia returned 450 tons of plastic waste to countries in the West and Japan.