Indonesia sending back 210 tonnes of waste to Australia

Eight containers seized in Surabaya had household trash and hazardous material

An Indonesian Customs officer inspecting containers filled with garbage at a port in Surabaya, Indonesia, yesterday. The containers from Australia should have contained only waste paper, but the authorities also found other items, including plastic b
An Indonesian Customs officer inspecting containers filled with garbage at a port in Surabaya, Indonesia, yesterday. The containers from Australia should have contained only waste paper, but the authorities also found other items, including plastic bottles and packaging, used diapers, electronic waste and cans. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • Indonesia said yesterday it would send more than 210 tonnes of garbage back to Australia, as South-east Asian nations push back against serving as dumping ground for foreign trash.

The eight containers seized in Surabaya city should have contained only waste paper, but authorities also found hazardous material and household trash including plastic bottles and packaging, used diapers, electronic waste and cans, a spokesman for the East Java Customs agency told AFP.

Following the inspection the Indonesian environment ministry recommended "the items be re-exported", the agency said in a separate statement on Monday.

"This is done to protect the public and Indonesian environment, especially in East Java, from B3 waste," it said, referring to hazardous and toxic materials.

Australian company Oceanic Multitrading sent the waste to Indonesia with help from Indonesian firm PT. MDI, the authorities said.

China's decision last year to ban imports of foreign plastic waste threw global recycling into chaos, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their waste.

Huge quantities of rubbish have since been redirected to South-east Asia, but opposition to handling exported trash is growing in the region with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines saying that they do not want to become dumping grounds.

Indonesia announced last week it was sending back 49 containers full of waste to France, the United States, Australia, Germany and Hong Kong. Loaded with a combination of garbage, plastic waste and hazardous materials in violation of import rules, the containers were found on Batam island, neighbouring Singapore.

In May, neighbouring Malaysia announced that it was shipping 450 tonnes of imported plastic waste back to its sources, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The Philippines, meanwhile, returned about 69 containers of rubbish to Canada last month, putting an end to a diplomatic row between the two countries.

  • 49

  • Number of containers filled with waste that Indonesia said it was sending back to France and other developed nations last week.

Global concern over plastic pollution has been spurred by shocking images of waste-clogged rivers in South-east Asia and accounts of dead sea creatures found with kilos of refuse in their stomachs.

Around 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, with much of it ending up in landfills or polluting the seas, in what has become a growing international crisis. Last year, Indonesia imported 320.4 million kg of plastic waste, up from 128.8 million kg from the previous year, according to the Trade Ministry.

The Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (Ecoton), an Indonesian environmental group, said plastic trash imported from developed countries has polluted the Brantas river in East Java province. It said it had found that 80 per cent of fish sampled in Brantas contain micro-plastic.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2019, with the headline Indonesia sending back 210 tonnes of waste to Australia. Subscribe