Indonesia is the latest country to crack down on illegal shipments of British waste.

An estimated 19 shipping containers of British waste have been returned to the UK, following a crackdown by Indonesian customs officials on contaminated waste imports.

The UK, like most western countries has been struggling to find suitable facilities following China’s 2018 imports moratorium on plastics and other selected wastes which went into effect last year.

Customs officials on Batam Island in Indonesia told AFP they have returned 49 containers of mixed contaminated and hazardous wastes to the United States, Australia, France, Germany, and Hong Kong. "We are coordinating with the importer to immediately process their return," a customs office spokesman told AFP.

Malaysia has returned over 200 waste containers that failed to have the correct permits to enter the country, while the Philippines has also began sending back around 69 contaminated waste containers.

Countries in Southeast Asia are finding it difficult to cope with the growing amounts of waste shipments being imported for recycling and countries like Malaysia and Indonesia do not have the recycling infrastructure capacity to deal with excessive amounts of imported waste. There’s also the inherent problem that much of the waste is contaminated and difficult to recycle.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, the British containers were returned to the UK in August from Tanjung Perak port after they were imported by paper manufacturing company PT Mega Surya Eratama.

The Environment Agency (EA) did not confirm whether it had been involved in the repatriation. However, a spokesperson told ENDS: “We are committed to tackling illegal waste exports, which is why individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two-year jail term or an unlimited fine.”

Last reviewed 10 September 2019