Malaysia to Return 3,300 Tons of Plastic Waste Illegally Imported From Countries Including the U.S.
Malaysia's Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin announced Tuesday that the country would return as much as 3,000 tonnes (approximately 3,307 U.S. tons) of plastic that had been imported illegally from countries including the U.S., Reuters reported.
"Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world ... we will fight back," Yeo said at a press conference reported by the Associated Press. "Even though we are a small country, we can't be bullied by developed countries."
The waste comes in 60 containers smuggled into the country. Ten of the containers, containing some 450 tonnes (approximately 496 U.S. tons) will be shipped back within two weeks, Yeo said.
Malaysia to ship back 450 metric tonnes of contaminated plastic waste to Australia, US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China & Bangladesh, in addition to the waste sent back to Spain on Apr 29. Total of 3,000 metric tonnes expected to be shipped back once inspections are completed pic.twitter.com/GLvZLFR746— Sumisha Naidu (@sumishanaidu) May 28, 2019
Yeo showed some of the waste to reporters at a port near Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, the Associated Press reported. It included cables from the UK, milk cartons from Australia, compact discs from Bangladesh and household and electronic waste from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China. Yeo said one UK company had imported more than 50,000 tonnes (approximately 55,000 U.S. tons) of waste in the past two years. Malaysia had already returned five containers of waste to Spain in late April.
Individuals in developed countries sorted their recycling without realizing how it was being disposed of, Yeo said. She called on the policy makers in wealthy countries to do better.
"We are urging developed nations to review their management of plastic waste and stop shipping garbage to developing countries," she said, according to Reuters. "If you ship to Malaysia, we will return it back without mercy."
Once in Malaysia, waste has been processed by illegal centers that have popped up across the country since China's ban. They pollute both air and water as they burn plastics and illegally access water that is contaminated in the process, according to Grist. Malaysia has shut down more than 150 of these plants since July 2018, the Associated Press reported.
"We view the perpetrators of this act as traitors to the country's sustainability and therefore they should be stopped and brought to justice," Yeo said of the illegal recycling centers in a press release.
Malaysia's action comes weeks after the issue of plastic waste caused tensions between Canada and the Philippines when Canada missed a May 15 deadline to take back tons of garbage, CNN reported. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recalled his ambassador to Ottawa and said he was prepared to "declare war" over the issue. Canada has since promised to remove the waste at its own expense before the end of June.Also this month, more than 180 countries agreed to amend the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal to include plastic pollution. According to the agreement, no plastic can be shipped to a country without its government's consent. The U.S., the world's No. 1 plastic exporter, has not ratified the Basel Convention.
World's Plastic Waste Problem Now Predicted to Reach 111 Million Metric Tonnes by 2030 https://t.co/5JMkhfsfcY— John R. Platt (@johnrplatt) June 21, 2018
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.