Garbage dump
© Reuters / Lai Seng Sin
Plastic waste piled outside an illegal recycling factory in Jenjarom, Kuala Langat, Malaysia, 2018.
Malaysia has returned 150 shipping containers loaded with plastic waste, with the country's environment minister saying it won't become the "garbage dump of the world."

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin announced the return of the containers, which had been imported illegally, on Monday. The containers held more than 3,700 tons of plastic waste, and originated from 13 countries. Forty-three came from France, 42 from the UK, 17 from the US, and 11 from Canada.

The cost of returning the containers was paid by the exporting countries and shipping lines, Yeo said, declaring "we don't want to pay a single cent."

"People dump the rubbish into your country, we are not supposed to pay them to send it back," she added.

Another 110 containers will be sent back in the near future, she said, 60 of them to the United States.

"[We] will take the necessary steps to ensure that Malaysia does not become the garbage dump of the world," Yeo stated.

Western nations shipped their plastic waste to China for processing and recycling for years, but were forced to look for new destinations in 2018 when the Chinese government banned foreign waste imports.

The burden has since fallen heavily on southeast Asia, though countries in the region are also growing tired of cleaning up the West's messes. Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia have all returned shipments of plastic waste to the West in recent months, with Indonesia claiming it was receiving "contaminated" trash.

Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte threatened last May to personally sail across the Pacific with 69 containers worth of Canadian waste and dump it in Canadian waters. The same month, Malaysia announced it was returning 450 tons of imported waste to its source countries.