Indonesia said it won't become yet another "dumping ground" of the world and returned five containers of waste back to US, joining the growing number of Asian nations that have recently been turning back Western ‘recyclables.'
The waste arrived in Indonesia from Seattle back in March. The cargo, shipped by a Canadian company, was supposed to contain paper recycling material, but the Environment and Forestry Ministry discovered multiple "impurities" inside five containers and ordered them to be "re-exported."
The containers were filled with "significant amounts" of various plastic waste and shoes, in addition to other rubbish such as wood scraps, fabrics and even diapers. "Although the containers were originally from Canada, the country of departure was the US," said Waste and Hazardous Waste Management Directorate general secretary Sayid Muhadhar.
This is not appropriate and we don't want to be a dumping ground.
Indonesia, which has a very limited capacity to recycle even its own plastic, has a decree banning the import of consumer plastic waste. Production waste in the form of clean paper and plastic scraps can still enter the country, if the Trade Ministry grants import license.
Any trash that enters the country illegally will immediately be sent back, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, warned earlier this month, stressing that the government will investigate any reported malpractices and violations. Just on Friday, the Batam customs received 65 containers from North America and Europe that authorities believe might contain toxic waste, Jakarta Post reported, noting that containers have been sealed while a lab examines the samples. The country already returned dozens of containers filled with illegal plastic in 2015 and 2016.
Indonesia broke its decade-old record and imported a total of 283,000 tons of plastic last year, the National Statistics Agency showed. The tremendous 141 percent increase followed China's January 2018 decision to stop accepting plastic waste from the rest of the world due to environmental concerns. In the past, China processed over half of the world's trash.
China's ban forced Western corporations, which lack own waste recycling capacities, to seek new ‘markets' in Asia. The situation worsened even further when India followed China's example and banned the import of solid plastic waste.
As a result, tons of trash from the US, Europe and Australia ended up going to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, forcing these countries to seek countermeasures to protect their environment. Vietnam placed a moratorium on granting new import licenses, while Thailand issued a ban on imports. In the meantime, Malaysia and the Philippines have both recently sent back mountains of trash to their original destinations.