Greenpeace: Plastic waste illegally exported to Malaysia back in Austria


Environmental protection organization calls for a rapid investigation of the garbage by authorities and a far-reaching ban on garbage exports

Vienna (OTS) © The  environmental protection organization Greenpeace welcomes the fact that around 100 tons of the plastic waste that was illegally entered Malaysia last year has returned to Austria. In October 2020, Greenpeace, together with a team from ORF ZIB 2 and, discovered that over 700 tons of non-recyclable and chemical-laden plastic waste from Austria was illegally exported to Malaysia and some of it was dumped there. © The  Austrian authorities had the few rubbish containers still remaining at customs returned for laboratory testing by the Federal Environment Agency. Today officials from the Ministry of the Environment took samples from the containers, which will be examined for their chemical content in the coming weeks. © The  result of the analysis will also decide on a possible penalty for the Austrian companies involved in the export. Greenpeace demands a quick and transparent investigation of the case by the authorities. © The  export of waste to countries with lower environmental standards than Austria must be prohibited, according to the environmental protection organization.

“It is an ecological scandal and madness to ship waste tens of thousands of kilometers from Austria to a poorer country with lower environmental standards. We know many examples from Malaysia in particular, where the processing or landfilling of imported waste makes people sick and pollutes seas, rivers and nature. We urgently need strict controls to ensure that companies take responsibility for their waste and process their waste in an environmentally friendly way in Austria, ”demands Lisa Panhuber, consumer expert at Greenpeace in Austria.

In the previous year alone, a total of 28 containers with plastic waste were illegally exported from Austria to Malaysia. Since the contaminated garbage could not be recycled there, parts of it ended up in a landfill. Four containers with around 100 tons of plastic waste got stuck at customs and were fetched back by the Austrian authorities. Experts from the Federal Environment Agency will examine the waste in the next few weeks to determine which chemicals it is contaminated with and in which domestic facility it should be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

Interpol warns that more and more plastic waste is being traded illegally around the world and that it is not properly disposed of in countries in the Global South. Since China stopped importing plastic waste in 2018, the global flow of plastic waste has shifted to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia. With the EU circular economy strategy, the European Commission is now trying to reduce the amount of waste in the EU. However, in order to meet the new recycling requirements of the EU without high costs, many companies export their waste. Officially, 1.7 million tons of plastic waste were exported from the EU in 2019 – the unofficial number is estimated to be much higher. Companies in Asia or Africa sometimes issue false certificates that supposedly confirm that the waste is being recycled there. However, some end up in illegal landfills. In 2019, Greenpeace found toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, phthalates, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants in soil and water samples near illegal landfills in Malaysia.

© The  federal government must put a stop to the dirty business with the garbage trade and advocate restrictive, uniform garbage export bans at EU level. © The  export of waste to countries with lower environmental standards than Austria must be stopped and the ban must be strictly controlled. In order to effectively reduce the mountains of rubbish, waste must be avoided and the lifespan of products must be drastically extended. Products must be designed in such a way that they do not contain materials that cannot be reused or recycled. This means, for example, that fewer chemicals should be allowed in plastics, that we can reuse packaging and repair electrical appliances, ”says Panhuber.


Image material (symbol images) can be found at: © The  photo material is available for editorial use free of charge, stating the credits (noted in the image title).

Greenpeace research on illegal waste trade:

Greenpeace report “© The  Recycling Myth 2.0 – Toxic After-Effects of Imported Plastic Waste in Malaysia”:

Interpol report on illegal plastic trade:

Information on the new regulation of plastic waste exports in the Basel Convention:

Inquiries & contact:

Lisa Panhuber
Consumer expert
Greenpeace CEE in Austria
Tel.: +43 (0)664 61 26 712
E-Mail: [email protected]

Marianne Fobel
Press officer
Greenpeace CEE in Austria
Tel.: +43 (0)664 816 9716
E-Mail: [email protected]

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Greenpeace Plastic waste illegally exported Malaysia Austria


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