Malaysia says 110 containers of hazardous heavy metals have been found abandoned at a port.
Some 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 to have illegally entered the country.
It is the largest amount of dumped toxic waste of its kind ever discovered in Malaysia.
Officials said the containers came from Romania and were bound for Indonesia when they were abandoned last month at the Tanjung Pelepas port in the southern state of Johor.
Environment and water minister Tuan Ibrahim was quoted by state media as saying: “The discovery of the EAFD, on transit in Malaysia and bound for Indonesia, is the biggest finding of its kind in Malaysian history.”
An international treaty, called the Basel Convention, is designed to cut the movements of hazardous waste between nations.
The EAFD, classified as toxic waste under the convention, had been listed as concentrated zinc in declaration forms, he said.
He added: “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.”
In recent years, Malaysia became the world’s main destination for plastic waste after China banned imports of scrap.
But it has been negotiating with origin countries to take back hundreds of containers of plastic that entered the country illegally.
In January, it was revealed Malaysia had sent back 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 mainly rich countries, including 42 to the UK, since the third quarter of last year.
Malaysia has contacted Romania to arrange for the return of the containers and has asked Interpol to investigate, state media Bernama reported.
The Romanian embassy in Kuala Lumpur did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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