Malaysia has shipped 150 containers of plastic waste back to more than a dozen countries including France, Britain and Japan, its environment minister said Monday, pledging to not let the country become the world's dumping ground.

The 150 containers, containing 3,737 tons of plastic waste brought into the country illegally, included 43 to France, 42 to Britain, 17 to the United States, 11 to Canada, 10 to Spain and five to Japan.

(Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin pictured at a press conference on Jan. 20, 2020.)

Malaysia has been grappling with an influx of plastic waste from abroad and began cracking down on it hard in 2018 after China took the lead by imposing a ban on imports of plastic waste in January that year.

Yeo Bee Yin, the environment minister, said the 150 containers, found across the country's three main ports, including Port Klang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, were shipped out between the second half of last year and Friday.

"We just want to send it back. We want to communicate the message that Malaysia is not the dumping site of the world," she told reporters at a press event at Penang Port in the northern state of Penang.

An additional 110 containers are in the process of being shipped back, 60 of which originated from the United States, 15 from Canada and 14 from Japan.

Yeo stressed that shipping costs have been borne by the importers or the shipping companies.

Malaysia began enforcing tougher rules in July 2018 by freezing the issuance of licenses to set up plastic waste recycling plants and banning the import of plastic waste.

It has shut down 218 illegally operated recycling plants across the country, while checking for smuggled plastic waste at seaports.