The country’s Environment and Forestry Ministry advised the Customs Office in a letter on Monday that the containers of disallowed material had been shipped from countries including the US, Australia and Germany. Inspectors had earlier found items including wood, fabrics and shoes in containers that were meant to only contain clean paper scraps. As a result, Indonesian officials decided to tighten their inspection procedures and search more containers.
Subsequent laboratory tests on the contents of 65 containers showed that 38 had contained toxic or hazardous materials, while 11 contained regular trash that was not meant for recycling, according to a report in the Jakarta Post. Officials say that they will be sent back to their countries of origin.
The containers were sent Indonesia in order for plastic scraps to be recycled into new products, which would then be exported. Indonesia became a major hub for plastic recycling following China’s decision to ban the importation of plastic waste in January 2018, which India also banned a year later.
The case is a textbook example of the abuse of recycling programs by Western countries. The phenomenon of off-loading unwanted refuse to poorer countries is termed “environmental dumping” by economists.
Under Indonesian law, containers found to contain trash or other contaminants must be sent back to their country of origin. Other southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia have passed similar laws to help reduce the problem.
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