As Southeast Asian nations fight back against being used as garbage dumps for foreign nations’ trash, Indonesia announced on Tuesday, July 9 that it will be re-exporting more than 210 tonnes of garbage back to Australia.
Authorities reported that Australian company Oceanic Multitrading sent eight containers of waste to Indonesia with assistance from Indonesian firm PT MDI.
A spokesman for the East Java customs agency in Indonesia reported to AFP that while the eight containers were only supposed to hold waste paper, inspections revealed that they were full of hazardous materials and trash such as used diapers, cans, electronic waste, and plastic packaging and bottles, which are considered illegal trash materials.
In a statement released on Monday, July 8, the Indonesian environment ministry strongly backed the “re-exportation” of the garbage back into Australia, in order to “protect the public and Indonesian environment, especially in East Java, from B3 waste”. B3 waste refers to materials that are classified as toxic and hazardous.
Global recycling was thrown for a loop in 2018, when China put out a ban on imports of foreign waste (32 categories of solid waste, to be exact). Developed nations found themselves at a loss in terms of what to do with their trash, and since previous methods of recycling were no longer applicable, they started to send their trash to the less-developed Southeast Asian nations.
Countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were prime targets for the exportation of foreign waste, as if those nations did not have enough overwhelming waste problems of their own to deal with.
Southeast Asia is not taking this one lying down and is refusing to be bullied by the bigger, more developed nations. Southeast Asian countries have been rising up in opposition to being treated like garbage dumps for foreign trash, strengthening the regional push-back movement against illegal trash imports.
Environmental groups in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have been actively urging their governments to tighten regulations on imports of plastic trash especially, saying that the trash is detrimental to the environment and is only making their respective growing trash problems even more insurmountable.
Just last week, Indonesia announced that it would send back 49 containers of banned garbage to the United States, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia. Last month, Indonesia also shipped back five containers full of illegal trash to the United States.
About a month ago, the Philippines returned to Canada 69 containers of garbage with around 2,500 tonnes of household waste (which included used adult diapers) that had been rotting away in Manila ports for over six years. This marked an end to a diplomatic row between the two countries, where close and friendly ties had suffered because of the festering issue.
Malaysia has also had its issues with illegal foreign trash imports. In May, Singapore’s closest neighbour announced that it was shipping 450 tonnes of imported plastic waste back to its home sources, which included countries like China, Canada, Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The global plastic waste problem has become one too large to ignore. Everyday we see a reminder of this, posted all over social media and the news — once beautiful rivers in Southeast Asia (as well as portions of our oceans all over the world) littered with giant floating mounds of trash and heart-breaking reports and photos of animals (especially sea creatures) turning up dead with stomachs full of undigested plastic waste. /TISG
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