Indonesia says it will immediately send eight containers of household rubbish back to Australia after inspectors declared the material too contaminated to be recycled.
It is the latest in a series of announcements by south-east Asian nations that they will not be dumping grounds for overseas waste.
Indonesian customs officials said the containers of paper from Australia were contaminated by electronic waste, used cans, plastic bottles, old bottles of engine oil and loose shoes. Some of this was deemed “B3”, an abbreviation of “bahan berbahaya dan beracun”, which refers to toxic and hazardous material.
Opening the containers up for the press on Tuesday morning, gloved customs officials held up examples of the offending material, including used nappies and soft drink cans.
Speaking at Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, customs officials said eight containers holding 210.3 tonnes of waste would be returned.
The containers arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, in mid-June after being sent from Brisbane by a shipping company.
Customs in Surabaya said the offending material would be re-exported immediately, following coordination with the Indonesian import firm PT MDI.
The customs office said it was obliged to protect Indonesia and its environment from imports of B3 waste and had coordinated with related government ministries, including trade and environment, as a show of how serious it was.
Global recycling was thrown into chaos last year when China banned imports of foreign plastic waste, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their rubbish. Huge quantities have since been redirected to south-east Asia, but opposition to handling exported waste is growing in the region.
In May, the Malaysian government said it would return up to 100 tonnes of Australian waste because it was too contaminated to recycle. It was part of 450 tonnes of imported plastic waste it sent back to countries across the globe. Malaysia’s environment minister, Yeo Bee Yin, said the rubbish was infested with maggots and declared Malaysia would “fight back” and “not be the dumping ground of the world.”
The Philippines returned about 69 containers of rubbish back to Canada last month, putting an end to a diplomatic row between the two countries.
Last week, Indonesia announced it was sending back 49 containers full of waste to France and other developed nations.
Global concern over plastic pollution has been spurred by shocking images of waste-clogged rivers in Southeast Asia and accounts of dead sea creatures found with kilos of refuse in their stomachs. Environmental group WWF says about 300m tonnes of plastic are produced each year, with much of it ending up in landfills, waterways or oceans.
As it repatriates unsanctioned waste, Indonesia has its own huge domestic rubbish issues to contend with. Many across the archipelago continue to burn toxic waste as a form of disposal, while each year tonnes of waste are dumped in the country’s rivers and oceans. Indonesia is the second-largest global contributor to marine plastic waste after China.
Comment was sought from the Australian government.
Source: The Guardian