Indonesia to re-export illegal plastic waste

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia will re-export illegal plastic waste entering the country, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said, following news of the illegal import of plastic waste in Gresik, East Java.

"The waste that enters Indonesia, which has plastic, is definitely not legal. And basically the provisions are there, therefore we will perform a re-export," Nurbaya said in Jakarta on Monday.

The import of illegal plastic waste is not a new problem. From 2015 to 2016, Indonesia re-exported dozens of containers of plastic waste.

According to Nurbaya, the steps for re-exporting are currently being discussed at the level of director general of related ministries, including Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, the Trade Ministry, as well as the Finance Ministry's Customs and Excise Office.

Waste in the form of plastic chips mixed with paper that cannot be recycled, as well as plastic waste whose shapes vary in the form of bottles, sachets, food packaging, personal care and household products, have been found in Gresik.

According to Indonesian Center for Environmental Law researcher Fajri Fadillah, imports of plastic waste in Gresik are prohibited and punishable as crimes, based upon Article 29 Paragraph (1) Letter B, in conjunction with Article 37 Paragraph (1) of Law Number 18 Year 2008 concerning Waste Management.

"Officials must investigate the case of importing plastic waste. In addition, the Trade Minister must revoke import approvals for paper producer importers who do not report the plastic waste they import. Furthermore, applications for import approvals must be reviewed by the Trade Minister by consulting the Environment and Forestry Ministry," Fadillah said.

He also said that the implementation of two rules regarding imported waste, Law Number 18 of 2008 concerning Waste Management and Minister of Trade Regulation (Permendag) Number 31 / M-DAG / PER / 5/2016 concerning Import of Non-Hazardous and Toxic Waste to control the import of waste, needs to be monitored.

"The government needs to re-evaluate companies that have plastic and paper scrap import licenses, to learn whether they are acting in accordance with licensing, and whether their practices pollute the environment," Fadillah said.

In 2018, data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed an increase of 141 percent (283,152 tons) in imports of plastic waste in Indonesia.

This figure was the highest for imports of plastic waste in the past 10 years. In 2013, the import of plastic waste was some 124,433 tons. However, the increase in imports is not in balance with export figures, as export figures declined 48 percent (98,450 tons) in 2018.

This figure indicates that there are 184,702 tons of waste still in Indonesia, beyond the burden of domestic waste management in the country itself, Fadillah said.

Environmental activist from Bali Fokus, Mochamad Adi Septiono, also said that Indonesia should anticipate the impact of China's National Sword policy, which strictly limits the import of plastic waste. China previously took in 45.1 percent of the world's waste, but since March 2018 it has limited imports of garbage.

"The garbage produced by countries such as America is usually sent to China, now that China has implemented its policy, ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, are being targeted," he said.