Jakarta sending containers of waste back to the West

Indonesian officials with the containers of plastic waste meant for recycling, at a press briefing at Jakarta International Container Terminal on Wednesday. Indonesia says the waste was found to contain hazardous substances. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Indonesian officials with the containers of plastic waste meant for recycling, at a press briefing at Jakarta International Container Terminal on Wednesday. Indonesia says the waste was found to contain hazardous substances. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA • Indonesia is sending back hundreds of containers of contaminated waste to the West after shipments supposedly containing plastic meant for recycling were found to contain hazardous substances, officials said.

Among the more than 2,000 containers checked by the authorities at four ports from July to this month, nearly 550 had hazardous material or non-plastic waste.

More than 300 containers have already been repatriated, officials said. "Imported waste mixed with trash or hazardous waste must be re-exported," said Mr Heru Pambudi, director-general of Customs and Excise.

The authorities are also taking action against three companies involved in the shipments.

Australia has been the biggest source of the toxic materials, Mr Pambudi said, but other shipments would be sent back to the United States, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Slovenia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Hong Kong, France and Britain.

Huge quantities of waste have been redirected to South-east Asian nations after China - which used to receive the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world - closed its doors to foreign refuse last year in a bid to protect the environment.

Australia has pledged to stop exporting recyclable waste amid global concerns about plastic polluting the oceans and increasing pushback from Asian nations against accepting trash.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Jakarta sending containers of waste back to the West'. Print Edition | Subscribe