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Massive e-Waste Seizure In Malaysia Follows Tip-Off From Global Waste Watchdog Group

Massive e-Waste Seizure In Malaysia Follows Tip-Off From Global Waste Watchdog Group

Dumpsite full of residues from electronic waste processors in Klang, Malaysia. Photo Credit: Basel Action Network 2023

After receiving detailed alerts by the Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN), a global watchdog group working to prevent the dumping of toxic wastes by rich industrialized countries on developing countries, the Malaysian government;announced yesterday;that they detained 301 of the 453 intermodal containers BAN had identified in their alerts. Of these, 106 were found to contain illegal electronic waste (e-waste).;In a press conference in Klang, Malaysia, Environment Minister;Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad expressed appreciation for BAN’s collaboration and noted that another 200 containers remain to be opened and inspected.

BAN has been active on the issue of e-waste trafficking since 2002 when they;first revealed;the existence of a massive export pathway from North America, Europe, and Japan to Guiyu, China, where computers, printers, and screens were smashed, burned, flushed with acids, and smelted in highly polluting operations. Since then, BAN has brought global attention to the e-waste crisis and has worked within the United Nations Basel Convention that obliges countries to strictly control the trade of hazardous or problematic waste such as e-waste. BAN was instrumental in ensuring that mainland China, and later Hong Kong, prohibited e-waste imports.

"We welcome the opportunity to assist the Malaysian government with high quality enforcement intelligence so they can do their job to detain these shipments and arrest any accomplices, including company directors and complicit officials on their side," said Jim Puckett, BAN Executive Director. "We will also do all we can to see that the US government takes these containers back, and that exporters are held to account."

The task of prosecuting the US exporters is an important one, but difficult due to the fact that the US is one of the very few countries in the world that has not ratified the Basel Convention. Under the Convention, the illegal trafficking of hazardous e-waste is considered to be a criminal act.

Nevertheless, BAN has been able to seek justice by working with the US Department of Justice to charge US recyclers that were trafficking e-wastes with fraud and other crimes. BAN also created an industry certification known as;e-Stewards;to promote ethical recyclers in the US that have agreed to operate as if the US had ratified the Basel Convention. BAN urges all American consumers and businesses to use only e-Stewards certified companies to process e-waste and thus be certain that their old computers and phones don't end up being dumped in developing countries.

BAN uses GPS trackers, and other techniques to trace the flows of e-waste across the globe. They also work closely with national NGOs in target countries to conduct field investigations of illegal importers and processors. In this case, in addition to the government, they also notified long-time partner Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth).

"Malaysia is increasingly becoming a dumping ground for plastic and electronic wastes from rich countries like the US," said Mageswari Sangaralingam, honorary secretary of Sahabat Alam Malaysia. "We applaud our enforcement agencies for working with NGOs nationally and internationally to end waste trafficking, and urge them to be vigilant against possible corruption. The containers must not only be sent back but all companies and individuals trafficking or enabling illegal e-waste and plastic waste must be held accountable."

According to BAN, the global trade in hazardous waste that continues to harm workers, communities, and the environment in developing countries, while allowing the Global North to evade costs, is an affront to environmental justice and an ethical circular economy. Individuals, businesses, and governments must all be vigilant against unscrupulous actors in the waste disposal chain and ensure that waste is managed ethically and most importantly, minimized.;;

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