𝟐𝟗 𝐉𝐔𝐋𝐘 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏
C4 Center-SAM joint forum against imported plastic waste sheds light on impact
A forum jointly organised by the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) and Sahabat
Alam Malaysia (SAM) on improving monitoring and enforcement against illegal waste processing in Kedah
and Penang has shed light on the problems faced by the communities and the enforcement agencies in
addressing the issue, while creating a platform for the people and the agencies to interact.
Titled “Malaysia is Not a ‘Garbage’ Dump: Enhancing Monitoring & Enforcement Efforts in Kedah &
Penang”, the event saw the presentation of C4 Center’s research findings on the governance issues and
illegality linked to imported plastic waste, as well as a presentation and forum featuring a panel of experts,
moderated by SAM. The event also coincides with the Meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the
Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions on hazardous waste, chemicals and persistent organic
“The objective of this event is to look at the root causes of the damage of the waste trade to the
environment, and address serious gaps in governance issues, and how transparency and accountability
should be improved,” said Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of C4 Center, during her opening note.
The panel was graced by Penang State Executive Councillor for Environment and Welfare Phee Boon Poh;
Department of Environment’s (DOE) Penang Director, Sharifah Zakiah Syed Sahab; Head of DOE’s Sungai
Petani branch, Ya Mohammad Nazir Syah Ismail; and Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani
former President, Lydia Ong.
Over the course of the panel presentation, the panellists, moderated by SAM’s Honorary Secretary
Mageswari Sangaralingam, discussed the different roles and powers available to each level of government
in regulating plastic waste recycling, while identifying the challenges faced by authorities in monitoring
and enforcement along the value chains for waste streams.
C4 Center’s research findings were presented by researcher Wong Pui Yi, with her research showing that,
despite extensive coordination efforts by the government, not only were there weaknesses in the legal
and policy frameworks in Malaysia, the ease of illicit activity points towards pervasive corruption and
complacency among regulators and businesses, in turn leading to criminality and the intimidation of
“We have to call into question the limitations and loopholes that allow for these crimes against nature
committed in our country,” said Wong. “Local governments should also be more empowered and
Malaysia saw a massive influx of imported waste following China’s waste import bans in 2018, which led to a sharp rise in illegal recycling facilities and dumpsites, resulting in land, water, and air pollution that
has affected communities across the nation.
When enforcement efforts increased, the illegal operations simply moved to another region, leading to
rumours of collective organisation, and allegations of malfeasance, misconduct, and corruption.
“I always believe we should solve problems at the source, and the source is that all this waste plastic is
coming into Malaysia,” said Phee, adding that the issue needs to be addressed urgently. He also called for
better consultation between the federal government with state and local governments in the approval of
waste import permits.
“The illegal import of waste leads to environmental damage through the operation of illegal waste
premises and open burning leads to the release of toxic gases, as well as toxic leachates, which pollutes
river and groundwater with heavy metals,” shared Sharifah.
“On the local level, the DOE branch at Sungai Petani has insufficient staff trying to cover multiple waste
sources, with enforcement made even more challenging by how wrong-doers will seek loopholes to the
law. Complainants also have to be aware of the jurisdiction of each agency, and provide accurate
information from reliable sources,” said Ya, adding that Covid-19 has been a detriment to enforcement
efforts as well.
“Communities are severely affected from the pollution, with an increase in health issues from pollutionrelated illnesses and conditions,” shared Ong.
C4 Center and SAM recommend for a ban on the import of waste into Malaysia, which would serve to
address the issues of imported waste being unable to be returned to origin countries, while making a big
step towards resolving illegal waste processing in Malaysia by cutting off supplies.
“The problems from the international waste trade cannot be solved by the importing countries alone.
Developed countries must take responsibility for their own waste, and we need to stop waste colonialism
by banning the waste trade,” said Meenakshi Raman, President of SAM, in her closing remarks.
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