Indonesia: Agency investigates report of toxic waste shipments
The Environment Agency is looking into reports that 113 containers of toxic waste deriving from the UK and the Netherlands arrived at an Indonesian port last week.
Officials at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Port are understood to have intercepted shipments allegedly containing materials including electronic waste, prompting customs officials to begin investigating the companies and individuals involved.
According to the Jakarta Globe, Masnellyarti Hilman, Indonesia’s deputy environment minister for toxic waste management, highlighted how Indonesia had banned the import of all toxic and hazardous waste.
She is reported as saying: “On paper, the 113 containers held scrap steel, which is not categorized as toxic or hazardous waste. The shipment was green-lighted, but officials then became suspicious. What we found was not just scrap steel but also dangerous plastic waste, dirt and soil.
“You could see right away that the plastic was dangerous because it had the toxic sign [a skull and crossbones] and the corrosion sign [a beaker of acid]. As for the dirt and soil, we need to run lab tests first to determine what it is exactly.”
Environmental groups led by Indonesia Toxics-Free Network, the Basel Action Network, Ban Toxics, and BaliFokus condemned “illegal trade of waste” following the incident and urged world governments that have not already done so to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment and to enforce the Basel Convention as a matter of urgency.
"We were lucky to have caught this one shipment, which begs the bigger question, how many shipments are getting through under the noses of our port officials?" said Yuyun Ismawati, founder of the Indonesia Toxics-Free Network. "In Indonesia we have regulations on illegal toxic waste traffic based on the Basel Convention, but there needs to be better national enforcement and international cooperation to implement the law."
The environmental groups have also called on all governments that have not already done so to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment. The Basel Ban Amendment will prohibit and makes it a crime to export “toxic wastes” from developed to developing countries for any reason whatsoever.
"The Basel Ban places the responsibility of policing this crime not only on the importing country, such as Indonesia, but more importantly on the developed nations as well," explained Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network.
"The UK and Dutch port authorities missed this shipment, and thus it is clear that there needs to be greater responsibility on the shoulders of exporting countries to police unscrupulous actors that avoid costs of proper waste management by exporting toxic waste."
Commenting on the case, a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency, which regulates the export of waste from the UK, said it was looking into the matter.
The spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the press reports about the seized containers, but have not yet been contacted by the authorities in Indonesia. We are attempting to establish the facts and we will work with the Dutch and Indonesian authorities to resolve any problems.”
"Illegal waste export undermines law-abiding recycling businesses at home and risk harming people and the environment in the country that the waste is sent to.
"Waste crime is unacceptable and our National Enforcement Service works closely with the police, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Borders Agency, local authorities, shipping lines and the legitimate waste industry to tackle it.”
The Agency spokeswoman added: "The Environment Agency’s National Enforcement Service is currently leading on 22 complex investigations into waste crime and in the last two years we have successfully prosecuted 500 cases of illegal waste activities. Everyone can help put a stop to this terrible trade. Waste companies, local authorities and businesses all have a legal responsibility to ensure waste is dealt with properly and not illegally exported.”