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Returned illegal waste shipments from U.S. diverted from Indonesia to other Asian countries

Christian Fernsby |
Indonesian officials have been caught approving re-exports of illegal U.S. waste shipments to other Asian countries instead of returning them to the U.S. as promised. Instead of being returned to their senders, the waste containers have been diverted to India, Thailand, South Korea, and Vietnam.

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Topics: WASTE    U.S.    INDONESIA    ASIAN   

The original U.S. waste shipments were imported by the Indonesian paper recycling companies PT Mega Surya Eratama and PT Surabaya Mekabox located in East Java. Upon arrival they were deemed illegal by Indonesian authorities when they were found to contain large amounts of plastic and hazardous wastes mixed into what was supposed to be paper scrap.

The waste trade watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN) then tracked the return pathways of the illicit containers. BAN discovered that of the containers that were meant to be returned to the U.S., 38 containers were diverted to India, three to South Korea, and one container each went to Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Canada. Only 12 were actually returned to the U.S. as promised by the government.

It remains unknown whether the U.S. government was informed of the illegality of the exports to Indonesia, or whether the governments where the wastes actually ended up were notified and able to consent to their import. It is further unknown whether the receiving facilities were even capable of environmentally sound management of the wastes. If the experience in Indonesia is representative, much of the plastic waste which comes with the paper waste ends up being burned in waysides, creating highly toxic smoke and fumes.

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