Tonnes of non-recyclable waste could be heading back to the UK from Malaysia, Defra has warned.
The department said Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin had announced the return of more than 3,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste to the UK and other countries.
Yeo said inspections at Port Klang had identified 60 shipping containers stacked with unrecyclable waste from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, France and Saudi Arabia.
Defra said the Environment Agency (EA) worked closely with businesses to ensure that waste exported for recycling is uncontaminated and sent only to properly licensed facilities able to handle it correctly.
“There are a range of enforcement options for those found to export waste illegally including criminal and financial sanctions,” Defra said.
An EA spokesperson added: “The UK is committed to tackling illegal waste exports, which is why individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two-year jail term or an unlimited fine.
“We have yet to receive a formal request from the Malaysian authorities to repatriate any English waste, but discussions are ongoing to find ways to strengthen UK waste export management.”
Defra’s statement came a day after Yeo warned that unwanted shipments would be returned “without mercy”.