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Asia Minute: More Asian Nations Returning Trash Shipments

Marco Verch
CC BY 2.0 /

There’s a new trend underway in many developing countries across the Asia Pacific. It’s about shipping — but with an unusual twist.

The Philippines has already done it, and so has Malaysia. Now Indonesia is the latest developing country in Asia to take steps to send back trash exported by developing countries.

Last week, a spokesman for Indonesia’s customs department said the country will send 49 shipping containers of plastic garbage back to their points of origin.

Those locations include the United States, Germany, France, Australia and Hong Kong.

Within the last couple of months, the Philippines returned 69 containers of illegal waste to Canada — while Malaysia has announced plans to return 3,300 tons of trash to countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Earlier in the year, the Philippines shipped 51 containers of trash back to South Korea.

It’s the newest development in an ongoing story that began early last year, when China stopped accepting imports of plastic trash.

That move dramatically shifted the market.

Malaysia and Indonesia in particular have become destinations for trash shipments — and lawmakers in both countries are warning that’s not a sustainable development.

According to Indonesia’s Trade Ministry, imports of plastic trash to the country more than doubled by the end of 2018 compared to a year earlier – to more than 353,000 tons.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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