Australia dumps waste in Indonesia

BANGKOK, 11 July 2019: Greenpeace Thailand twittered a Guardian story Wednesday that claims Indonesia intends to return eight containers filled with garbage to Australia.

The UK Guardian story quotes Indonesian customs officials saying the containers contained hazardous material instead of just waste paper as stated in shipping documents.

Western nations and Australia have been dumping their garbage in Southeast Asian nations after China refused to accept the waste shipments in 2017.  The garbage is supposed to be treated and recycled by recycling plants in the region but the garbage treatment technology is inadequate and plants are already overwhelmed by the volume of domestic waste.

Indonesian customs officials said the eight 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.

The eight containers that are due to be shipped back to Australia held 210.3 tonnes of waste.

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 Southeast Asia, but opposition to handling exported waste is growing in the region.

Last 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.

Environmental group WWF says about 300 million 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.

(Source: The Guardian, AFP)