More transparency, stringency needed to preserve human rights and environment from plastic waste imports – C4 report

The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) launched its report on plastic waste recently with a webinar featuring a panel of experts, with the report and panel concluding that there needs to be more transparent and stringent laws governing waste and recycling to preserve human rights, health and the environment from local and transboundary plastic waste.

The report “Malaysia is not a ‘Garbage Dump’: Citizens against, corruption, complacency, crime, and climate crisis” delves into the illegality surrounding plastic recycling in Malaysia, how it occurred and the implications for the peoples’ right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

A policy brief was developed from selected findings of the full report focusing on good governance in the global plastic waste trade, which was the theme of the webinar. 

Panel members discussed some of the recommendations from the policy brief during the webinar, such as prioritising local plastic waste management over export (for exporting countries), full compliance to the Basel Convention and enhancing participatory multi-stakeholder engagements to tackle the illegal waste trade. The complete list of recommendations in the policy brief is available for download.

The webinar was co-organised with Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and moderated by Kiu Jia Yaw, co-deputy chairperson of the environment and climate change committee of the Malaysian Bar. It featured both local and international speakers, with former environment minister Yeo Bee Yin, SAM honorary secretary Mageswari Sangaralingam, and Greenpeace Malaysia campaigner Heng Kiah Chun sharing Malaysia’s experience as a destination for imported plastic waste.

Yeo shared her experience as minister in addressing the impacts and challenges of Malaysia as a country that imports plastic waste and her recommendations to the global community on the problems of transboundary plastic waste.

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Mageswari spoke about the importance of working with international partners to find solutions, and Heng shared his experience with tracking plastic waste shipments.

“We should check if there are international syndicates that are profiting from the subsidies of developed governments, but are instead dumping the waste in developing countries,” Yeo said.

Sirine Rached, global policy advocate for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Jane Bremmer, campaign coordinator for National Toxics Network Australia, and James Sweeney, head of sector illicit trade, health and environment operations and investigations for the European Anti-Fraud Office, represented interested international bodies. They spoke about the Basel Convention and its loopholes, the impact of the export of refuse-derived fuels from Australia, and the importance of coordination and intelligence-sharing, respectively.

“One of our aims here was to link the climate crisis, environmental governance with the entire area of anti-corruption, of accountable governance, and access to information,” C4 Center executive director Cynthia Gabriel said.

“The webinar enabled the participants to better understand the legal and illegal transboundary trade in plastic waste and the loopholes in regulating the supply chains. The panellists recommended solutions such as source reduction, full disclosure, traceability and transparency of plastic waste shipments and called on developed countries to ban the export of plastic waste to prevent dumping, of which we will continue to advocate,” Mageswari said.

The webinar drew interest locally and internationally with over 1,700 viewers, with participants posting over 30 questions to the panel members. Further events will be held to disseminate other findings from the report. – C4 Center

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