Malaysia and other developing countries have become main targets for import of plastic waste, in the wake of China’s ban on scrap imports last year, which is estimated to have disrupted the flow of more than 7 million tonnes of trash annually.

Over the last year, hundreds of containers of plastic scrap have been held at ports across Malaysia, having arrived without the required permits.

The 42 containers that the UK will take back had arrived at Penang Port between March 2018 and March 2019, Reuters reported citing information from the authorities.

Reuters reported last month that over 300 containers of plastic scrap were being held at Penang, and some countries had agreed in principle to take back 200 of those.

This follows an earlier official announcement by Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin that the country would ship back around 3,300 tons of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries like the US, UK, Canada and Australia, in order "to avoid becoming a dumping ground for developed countries".

Dozens of recycling factories, many operating without a license, have cropped up in Malaysia since the Chinese ban on scrap imports came into effect, spurring complaints by residents of environmental damage.