According to news released today, an investigation has started, run by the UK Environment Agency, working closely with Indonesian authorities, to determine if almost 90 containers of scrap metal exported from the UK, which were intercepted in Jakarta in January, constitutes a breach of the international laws on exporting waste for recycling.
The containers cargo, described as scrap metal, totalling 1800 tonnes in weight was allegidly found to be heavily contaminated with liquid and mixed waste.
A request for repatriation of the containers to the UK has been received from the Indonesian authorities.
Under the terms of the international laws which govern global waste exports, Indonesia may accept scrap metal for recycling. However contaminated waste cannot be exported.
The containers which were intercepted at the Tanjung Priok port are expected to be released for repatriation by Indonesian authorities at the end of March. Once arrival in the UK has been overseen by UK Environment Agency officers sometime in April, a lengthy process of fumigation, inspection, and documenting is expected to start.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
Our understanding is that the containers that were exported to Indonesia were transporting what should have been clean "scrap metal" to a country that does accept scrap metal."
"We take waste crime seriously. We have taken action, our next steps will depend on the next stages of our investigation.
Andy Higham, who heads up the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team had this to say:
“We are working closely with the Indonesian authorities to establish the facts of this case.
“Illegal waste exports risk harm to human health and the environment in the country of export, it also undermines law-abiding recycling businesses back home. There is a legitimate export market for recyclable material. However, we will take vigorous action where there is evidence of waste being exported illegally.”
The Jakarta Globe reported that during a spot check, customs officials found the scrap materials "accompanied" by asphalt, sand, plastics and oozing white liquid.
At the time Indonesian Environment minister Balthasar Kambuaya was quoted as saying:
"The material must be safe and clean. These materials look like garbage. Some of them are wet, some are dry and some even drip smelly liquids. These clearly violate the law," the Jakarta Post reported..
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is bringing a high profile case against four men and two companies for the alleged illegal export of 89 containers of prohibited waste to Brazil between November 2008 and July 2009.
The Environment Agency continues its work to stop illegal waste crime. Anyone with information about illegal exports or large scale dumping in the UK can help by contacting the Environment Agency, 0800 80 70 60 or Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111.