U.S. Plastic Forms Mountains After It's Exported to Malaysia

Mountains of plastic are starting to form in Malaysia—and some of it could be yours.

“There’s no magical land of recycling with rainbows and unicorns,” Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque explained. “It’s much grittier than that.”

While the Ecology Center recycles metal and glass, it now sends much of its plastic to landfills in the U.S. The decision came after the Center used a GPA tracker to discover that some of the plastic, believed to be heading to recycling, was actually being shipped all the way to Malaysia. In fact, since 2018, Malaysia has seen a surge of imported plastic scrap. China, which was one of the world’s biggest plastic importers, recently banned most of the trade. The ban led to a flood of scrap to Malaysia’s shores.

Ideally used plastic bags from U.S. retail giants like Walmart would end up in recycling plants, which take scrap plastics from around the world and cleans/purifies it so it can be sold for reuse. For some, it can be bought, processed, and resold as raw pellets for profit.