RI warns rich countries on waste exports

By : Viriya Singgih

BLOOMBERG / JAKARTA

 

Indonesia said it would crack down on trash imported from the world’s richest countries after closer inspections showed it was increasingly the recipient of toxic waste materials.

Authorities at ports have boosted checks after a random inspection in May led to the discovery of more than 80 containers containing illegal waste from the United States, Australia and Europe.

One of Australia’s richest men has been dragged into the furor after a media report alleged a company he owned was responsible for a shipment that contained materials considered toxic under Indonesia law.

“This is a serious problem,” Customs and Excise Directorate General spokesman Deni Surjantoro said in an interview. Indonesian authorities are now planning tougher measures against companies caught importing illegal waste, and will announce them as early as this week, he said.

The government will also partially identify companies involved in the illegal trade, Deni said. While toxic or contaminated materials have been found in containers from the US, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia, the US had been identified as the worst offender, Deni said.

Deni said the problem began after a change in policy in China, which had been the world’s leading importer of recyclables.

China last year began to restrict, and in some cases ban imports on environmental grounds. “China’s policy eventually led us to tighten our monitoring process, which eventually led us to identify containers that contain contaminated waste,” Deni said.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers reported last week that Visy Recycling, a company owned by billionaire Anthony Pratt, was the exporter of a container that had been impounded in the Indonesian port of Batam. The shipment reportedly contained plastic waste which is regarded as toxic in Indonesia.

Visy did not reply to requests for comments, according to the newspapers, and did not immediately respond to a query by Bloomberg sent via its website. Importers of waste have 90 days to return the shipments back to the countries of origin form the day of arrival, Deni said.

Failure to comply will result in licenses being revoked and the importers will face investigations, he said. Last month, Malaysia announced it was sending more than 3,000 tons of scrap plastics back to countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China.
The Philippines took similar action in June, returning dozens of containers of waste deemed illegal back to Canada.