Indonesia sends rubbish back to Australia and says it's too contaminated to recycle

Indonesian officials say containers of paper contaminated by electronic waste, used cans and plastic bottles
Kate Lamb and Adam Morton The Guardian 8 Jul 19;

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.

• Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

After plastic, Indonesia now also returns contaminated paper waste to Australia
Wahyoe Boediwardhana The Jakarta Post 9 Jul 19;

The customs and excise office at Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya, East Java, is set to send back eight containers of waste paper from Australia after finding them contaminated with toxic and dangerous materials.

The containers of 210,340 kilograms of waste paper had been imported by PT MDI and cleared for departure from a Brisbane seaport, Tanjung Perak Customs and Excise Office head Basuki Suryanto said on Tuesday.

“We carefully examined the suspicious imported goods and found that they were contaminated with toxic waste,” he added.

The containers had been shipped by Oceanic Multitrading, which moored in Surabaya on June 12. They were said to have come with a license from the Trade Ministry, import approval documents and a surveyor’s report. The inspection at the seaport of origin was conducted Indonesian state-owned surveyor PT Sucofindo and partners, according to Basuki.

According to the examination in Surabaya, the waste paper is mixed with various types of garbage, including domestic and electronic waste, oil, plastic bottles and diapers.

Basuki said the return shipment would be conducted soon after the proposal from the importer, MDI, was processed.

“Once this is done, the waste will be sent back to its country of origin,” Basuki said.

He added that his office was currently examining 38 containers of imported waste paper from the United States and another 20 from Germany.

No examination results have been released yet.

According to the office’s data, 18 companies import waste paper through Tanjung Perak Port.

Importing waste contaminated with toxic or other dangerous materials violates Law No. 32/2009 on the environment and can be punished with four to 12 years of imprisonment and Rp 4 billion (US$282,874) to Rp 12 billion in fines.

“It is also a violation of Law No. 18/2008 on waste management, which carries the same penalty,” he said.

Re-export of waste in accordance with Basel Convention: Ministry
Antara 10 Jul 19;

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia's move to re-export illegal waste to its origin countries is in line with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Laksmi Dhewanti stated.

"Indonesia will soon issue a letter of re-export to waste-exporting countries based on the Basel Convention Secretariat," Dhewanti, an expert staff for Industry and Trade of the Forestry and Environment Minister, remarked here on Wednesday.

As Indonesia has ratified the convention, it will send back the illegal trash shipment to its origin countries, she asserted.

The move is projected to thwart the shipment of trash and hazardous waste to the country, Dhewanti explained, adding that the issue had been handled in accordance with Trade Ministerial Regulation No. 31 of 2016 and the Basel Convention.

"Article 9 of the Basel Convention has regulated the shipments of hazardous waste," she stated.

The ministry will work on coordination with the Trade Ministry, Customs Office, and Foreign Affairs Ministry to address the issue.

On June 14, the Forestry and Environment Ministry and Directorate General of Customs of the Finance Ministry had re-exported to the United States five containers of scrap paper found to also contain plastic, used diapers, and rubber. The trash was owned by PT AS.

The ministry's spokesman, Djati Witjaksono Hadi, remarked that the trash was immediately returned from Surabaya Port to the United States aboard the Zim Dalian ship following the completion of necessary documentation.

The amount of waste dumped in Southeast Asia has risen notably after China stopped accepting waste from Western nations last year.

Earlier, over 60 containers containing plastic trash had also been found at a port in Batam in Riau Islands.


Reporter: M Zulfikar, Sri Haryati
Editor: Fardah Assegaf

Indonesia takes firm stand on saying no to foreign rubbish
Antara 10 Jul 19;

Over the past few months, Indonesia has repeatedly shown its objection toward becoming a dumping ground for foreign trash containing hazardous and toxic waste (B3 waste).

The Indonesian authorities who have thoroughly been checking containers full of foreign rubbish arriving at several seaports of the country have been sending the imported waste back to the countries of origin, including the United States and France.

This time, the firm stance was shown by the country's related authorities handling eight containers comprising 210 tons of waste shipped from Brisbane's seaport in Queensland, Australia, to Surabaya's Tanjung Perak Port.

The authorities of Tanjung Perak Port's Customs and Excise Office found that the containers were not just loaded with waste paper but also with a variety of household waste, such as used cans, plastic bottles, used engine oil packaging, and diapers.

The imported waste paper is often used as a raw material for industries. However, as revealed by Head of Tanjung Perak Port's Customs and Excise Office, Basuki Suryanto, on Tuesday, the rubbish found in the eight containers might have contained B3 materials.

"This has been followed up with a physical examination by those from the Customs and Excise Office's law enforcement unit," he said.

Referring to this finding, the Environment and Forestry Ministry has recommended that this imported waste from Australia be shipped back to the country.

"Based on the ministry's recommendation, we give the importer 90 days to send these eight containers of waste paper and other domestic rubbish back to Australia," Suryanto said, adding that this was the second finding in Surabaya.

The first finding was recorded in early June in which waste from the United States of America evidently contained B3 materials. As a result, it was shipped back to its country of origin.

"The authorities imposing sanctions on importers belong to the Environment and Forestry Ministry," he said.

Many municipalities and waste companies in developed countries, including Australia and the USA, have been struggling to find alternatives after China refused to be a dumping ground for foreign rubbish by banning imported waste since early 2018.

Cheryl Katz revealed in her article published in the Yale Environment 360 (2019) that "over the coming decades, as many as 111 million tons of plastic will have to find a new place to be processed or otherwise disposed of as a result of China's ban".

Indonesia and several other countries in Southeast Asia have been chosen by those in developed countries to be their alternative destinations for their waste.

Thus, imported waste has become a serious global challenge. Considering the importance of this issue, environmentalists had even raised the issue of imported plastic waste on the sidelines of the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

Greenpeace, for instance, launched a petition, titled "No Space for Waste", by urging the ASEAN leaders to "end plastic waste crisis".

As published on its official website, this global environment watchdog appealed to all ASEAN member states to "declare an immediate ban on all imports of plastic waste and e-waste, even those meant for recycling, and ensure all ASEAN countries ratify the Basel Ban Amendment".

Instead of specifically responding to the issue of imported plastic waste, the ASEAN leaders adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the ASEAN region on June 22.

Apart from the absence of the ASEAN leaders' specific responses on imported waste at their recent summit in Bangkok, Indonesia has shown its firm stance on banning foreign waste.

Indonesia's firm stance is not merely represented by the authorities in Surabaya but it is also shown by the Batam city government, which has recently banned imported plastic waste from being used as raw materials for industries in the coastal city.

The firm stance on banning imported plastic waste was taken by strictly implementing waste management regulations for environmental protection, Head of the Batam City Government's Environmental Management Division IP said.

"We reject those offering imported raw materials," IP affirmed, adding that the Indonesian Customs and Excise officers had recently come across 65 containers of imported plastic waste. Drums, pipes, and buckets were among the plastic goods found loaded inside the containers, which were sent to Batuampar Port.

The importers of plastic waste contended that the containers were filled with raw materials for industries operating in Batam, he remarked.

Indonesia's message is clear: It does not want to become the dumping ground for foreign rubbish, particularly waste containing B3 materials, which will threaten its environment and the lives of its people. Related news: Indonesian minister draws attention to dangers of plastic waste


By Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Fardah Assegaf