Environmental activists in Indonesia are speaking out against the alleged loopholes of the Trade Ministry’s 2016 regulation on waste imports that have essentially turned their home into a dump site for other countries.
The environmental group Bali Fokus called upon the authorities to improve Indonesia’s policies so plastic waste smuggling can be prevented, the Jakarta Post reported.
Since China banned waste imports of 24 types of waste material in 2018, there has been an increase in the shipment of plastic waste from developed countries to developing nations such as Indonesia, according to a Greenpeace report from April via AsiaOne.
Greenpeace data revealed that Indonesia’s waste imports grew from 10,000 tons per month in late 2017 to 35,000 tons per month in late 2018.
Between January and November 2018, Britain shipped 67,807 tonnes of plastic waste to Indonesia, making it its top waste exporter.
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Meanwhile, Germany comes in second with 59,668 tonnes and Australia with 42,130 tonnes in the same period. In the year before, Germany exported only 408 tonnes.
Environmentalists have claimed that these countries were able to smuggle “unneeded” waste into the country because the 2016 Trade Ministry regulation on non-hazardous and toxic waste imports allows the import of, among other materials, plastic, metal and paper to “support local industries.”
It also requires plastic importers to only obtain permission from the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
Plastic waste, which the regulation classifies as Category B waste, must undergo inspection by independent inspectors before being imported and by customs officials upon arrival in Indonesia.
Bali Fokus co-founder Yuyun Ismawati explained that since scrap metal and waste paper falls into Category A, they do not require inspections before and during import.
“Metal and paper waste importers are not required to acquire such a document,” she said. “This loophole has been used (by several companies) to import hazardous plastic waste, with exporters reportedly slipping non-recyclable plastic waste into the imported package.”
According to Yuyun, the government needed to ensure that importers will obtain a recommendation from the Environment and Forestry Ministry before importing any kind of nonhazardous waste.
“Custom officials should also conduct spot checks at ports on containers known to be carrying such types of waste to Indonesia. This way, officials can find out whether such containers carry unneeded waste,” she added.
Bali Fokus and East Java-based environmental group Ecoton have reportedly found that 25% to 40 % of imported waste in Greater Jakarta and East Java are dumped in open fields or burned rather than being recycled.
Even the Environment and Forestry Ministry acknowledged the need to tighten the rules on waste imports.
“We want to tighten the policy. We ask these industries to only import clean plastic rubbish that is designated to be immediately recycled rather than sold to other parties,” Environment and Forestry Ministry waste management director general Rosa Vivien Ratnawati was quoted as saying.