06/14/2019, 13.20
MALAYSIA – CANADA – SINGAPORE
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Canada has no plans to take back waste from Malaysia, whilst Singapore is struggling to recycle

In recent months, foreign garbage has become a cause of diplomatic friction in Southeast Asia. A growing number of countries in the region are asking rich nations to take back their garbage. The only landfill in Singapore will be full by 2035, a decade earlier than expected.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Canadian government has no plans of picking up plastic waste that originated in Canada currently parked in Malaysia, a spokesman for Canada's Environment Department said yesterday.

In late May, the Malaysian government said it would send back 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste back to 14 countries of origin, including Canada.

Malaysia is one of a growing number of countries in Southeast Asia asking developed nations to take back the waste sent to them, claiming that part of it crossed their borders illegally.

Within the region itself, as countries try to cope with this serious environmental crisis, one of the worse of recent years, Singapore is struggling to implement an effective recycling policy.

Meanwhile in Canada, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Environment and Climate Change Department, Gabrielle Lamontagne, said: "There are no plans for the Canadian government to pick up waste in Malaysia."

Canada, she noted, had received no information about any shipment of waste from Canada to Malaysia, adding that her Department has reached out to the Malaysian government for details. There was no indication of how much of the plastic waste was of Canadian origin.

In recent months, foreign waste has become a cause of diplomatic friction. On 31 May, Canadian authorities agreed to the shipment of 69 containers ending a long dispute with the Philippines.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte had threatened to "sail to Canada and dump the garbage there". The Philippines had also recalled its ambassador and consuls after Canada missed a deadline to take back the waste.

The "dirty secrets" of the billion-dollar waste industry became front-page news in the summer of 2017 when China, which for decades was the world's largest importer of recyclable materials, announced its intention to close its borders to 24 categories of recyclable materials, like plastic waste and mixed paper.

The ban came into effect on 1 January 2018 and its repercussions have been felt around the world, including in Singapore, which ships its own recyclable waste to countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Known as the best place for business, the city-state has struggled to curb waste. Its only landfill, in Pulau Semakau, will be full by 2035, a decade earlier than expected.

For this reason, the Singapore government has implemented several initiatives in recent years to recycle waste, including the construction of a US$ 2.22 billion integrated waste management facility, food waste recycling machines at hawker centres and the passing of a new e-waste bill.

Singapore generated 7.7 million tonnes of waste in 2018 – enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Whilst this was a decrease of 9,000 tonnes from 2017, no headway was made on recycling, where there was instead a dip of 90,000 tonnes. 

Overall, national recycling fell from 61 to 60 per cent, despite being propped up by the industrial sector’s respectable 74 per cent showing.

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