KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia discovered 110 containers of hazardous heavy metals from Romania and bound for Indonesia that had illegally entered the country and were abandoned last month, its largest case of dumped toxic waste, state media Bernama reported on Sunday.
Malaysia in recent years became the world’s main destination for plastic waste after China banned imports of scrap. It has been negotiating with origin countries to take back hundreds of containers of plastic that entered the country illegally.
Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said 1,864 tonnes of electric arc furnace dust (EAFD) - a by-product of steel production that contains heavy metals like zinc, cadmium and lead - were found abandoned at the Tanjung Pelepas port in the southern state of Johor, according to Bernama.
“The discovery of the EAFD, on transit in Malaysia and bound for Indonesia, is the biggest finding of its kind in Malaysian history,” Tuan Ibrahim was quoted as saying.
He said the EAFD, classified as a toxic waste under the Basel Convention, had been listed as concentrated zinc in declaration forms.
“The Department of Environment, as the Basel Convention authority (for Malaysia), has not granted approval for or received notifications from the waste exporter to transit in Malaysia,” he said.
Malaysia has contacted the Romanian Basel Convention authority to arrange for the repatriation of the containers and have engaged Interpol for further investigations, Bernama said.
The Romanian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by William Mallard