Foreign trash turned away

Local | Sophie Hui and AFP 31 Jul 2019

Indonesia has returned seven shipping containers of illegally imported waste to France and Hong Kong, an official said yesterday.

It marks the latest move by a Southeast Asian nation to send back rubbish to their wealthy places of origin.

The containers were loaded with a combination of garbage, plastic waste and hazardous materials in violation of import rules, according to customs officials on Batam Island near Singapore.

"The containers left on Monday and some officials were there to see the ship depart," head of the local customs office Susila Brata said yesterday.

Earlier, customs spokesman Sumarna, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said that five containers were destined for Hong Kong and two were headed back to France.

Authorities are still waiting for clearance to return another 42 containers of waste at the port, including shipments from the United States, Australia and Germany.

Jakarta has stepped up the monitoring of imported waste as part of a push back against serving as a dumping ground for foreign trash.

For years, China received the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world but closed its doors to foreign waste last year in an effort to clean up its environment. Huge quantities of waste have since been redirected to Southeast Asia.

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.

Around 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, with much of it ending up in landfills or polluting the seas, in what has become a growing international crisis.

But, local waste paper recyclers said Indonesia's action has not had much of an impact on Hong Kong as waste paper in the city can still be exported to Southeast Asia.

Jacky Lau Yiu-shing, director of the Recycle Materials and Re-production Business General Association, said the price of waste paper has fallen to 20 HK cents per kilogram from 60 HK cents last month.

He said the drop in price was not related to Indonesia's move, but because of the mainland's restrictions on waste paper imports.

"This is because the rules have changed in the biggest market, which is the mainland. So, large waste paper exporters dump the waste paper in Southeast Asia, which has caused the plunge in prices," he said.

Lau urged the government to provide a subsidy to the industry as the transportation cost for sending waste paper to Southeast Asian countries is high.


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