Indonesia becomes latest Southeast Asian country to return waste to the West

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia has sent back a consignment of Canadian paper waste, imported via the United States, because it was contaminated with material including plastic, rubber and diapers, the environment ministry said.

Indonesia is the latest Southeast Asian country to send back trash amid a spike in imports from Western countries after China banned imports, disrupting the global flow of millions of tonnes of waste each year.

Environment ministry official Sayid Muhadhar said by telephone five containers, or around 100 tonnes, of waste had now been sent back to Seattle from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya.

“This is very simple. Indonesia does not allow imports of trash,” Muhadhar said.

“In Surabaya, what happened was we were supposed to get paper scrap, but instead it came with other materials such as plastic bags, rubber, plastic bottles, plastic pouches from cooking oil and soap,” Muhadhar said

The ministry did not name the company that had exported the waste, but said it was the first time in around five years that scrap had been re-exported.

“It’s been happening more because China has shut down its recycling facilities, so other countries have to look for new places,” said Muhadhar.

Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refused to accept them.

Malaysia also said recently said it would send as much as 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste back to the countries it came from.

Reporting by Jessica Damiana and Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Nick Macfie