“Take It Back!” Indonesia to Send Waste Back to Four Nations

Officials in Indonesia announced that the country will be sending 79 containers of hazardous materials back to the UK, the US, Australia, and New Zealand at the end of January this year. The Foreign Ministry had already called the envoys of the four nations to notify them about the plan and that Indonesia will do what it can to get rid of unusable hazardous waste from being dumped in the country.

The ministry’s director general of American and European affairs, Ngurah Swajaya stated that the plan was in line with international law. More specifically, it is in line with the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

…the what?

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was established on the 22nd of March 1989. It was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentriaries in Basel, Switzerland. This was a response to public outrage due to the discovery that in the early 1980s, many third world nations became deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.

Following the increasing push for more environmental regulations in numerous parts of the world, many operators in respective nations favour in moving the waste they produce to other countries. A decision that the Basel Convention labels as the ‘NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) Syndrome‘. As operators look for cheaper disposal options for their hazardous wastes in the developing world, the international law highlights a growing problem.

Right back at ya’

The containers were initially confiscated in 2019. In the same year, other Southeast Asian countries also faced an increase of shipments of hazardous waste from developed countries following China’s decision to ban imports of waste materials into the country.

The European Union passed a law that they will ban the export of unsorted plastic waste to developing nations this year. Under the newly enforced laws, trash operators would need to find an alternative on how they handle hazardous shipments. This decision was made based on the increasing outcries from environmentalists and reports from Asian nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia. In 2019, the EU exported about 1.5 million tons of plastic waste. Most of which ending up in Southeast Asian nations.

The 79 containers ready to be sent back are part of the total 107 containers that has already been confiscated by the Indonesian government because of it’s hazardous components. The remaining 28 containers are still scheduled to be re-examined.

Art by: Yuu Uchida
8th January 2021


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