Toxic Waste to Return to Europe Soon: Minister
Made Arya Kencana
Denpasar. Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said on Tuesday that 113 shipping containers filled with waste would be returned to their countries of origin by the end of this month.
In January, customs agents working with Environment Ministry staff identified and halted 113 shipping containers ostensibly filled with scrap iron but which were found to be contaminated with electronic waste and asphalt. Some of the containers, which arrived at North Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Port, were oozing a white liquid.
Subsequent testing revealed that the waste included sulfuric acid and toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and chromium.
The containers were originally sent from the ports of Felixstowe in Britain and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The minister said on the sidelines of a regional coordination meeting in Denpasar that “rulings from the North Jakarta District Court have been obtained [by the ministry].”
The court previously ruled that the containers failed to meet standards for scrap metals and ordered authorities to return them to the countries of origin. “By the end of March, we will send them back,” he said.
The ministry, he continued, will monitor the shipment, the cost of which will be paid by the importing company, Hwang Hook Steel.
“We will make sure that the containers reach their original countries,” Balthasar said.
Britain’s Environment Agency has launched a separate investigation into the case. British companies are forbidden from exporting toxic or hazardous waste to Indonesia.
The Environment Ministry is also testing a second wave comprising a further 118 suspicious containers found during a spot check at the same Jakarta port last month.
The minister said that the government was also seeking a court ruling on the containers.
“We have also questioned surveyors from four companies [involved in the second case],” Balthasar said.
The ministry, he said, is close to concluding its investigation, which will soon be brought to public prosecutors who will prepare a legal case.
There are concerns that the 113 containers may be just the tip of the iceberg, with ports elsewhere in the country also being used as entry points for waste deemed too difficult or expensive to dispose of safely in their countries of origin.