“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste,” the environment minister said.
Cambodia announced Wednesday that it will send 1,600 tonnes of plastic waste back to the United States and Canada. The country received the waste in 83 shipping containers from developed Western countries Tuesday at Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s main port.
“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,” said the country’s environment minister, Neth Pheaktra adding that 70 of the containers were shipped from the U.S. and 13 from Canada.
China last year banned shipment of foreign plastic waste, leading developed nations to send their waste to other developing countries.
Pheaktra said a government committee has been established to investigate why the containers reached the country and if any company found to be involved in bringing the waste would be fined and brought to court.
Transparency International Cambodia’s executive director, Preap Kol said trash delivery was a “serious insult.”
Last week Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a cabinet meeting that Cambodia is not a dumping ground and would not allow any importation of plastic waste or any recyclables.
Cambodia itself struggles with domestic plastic waste made complex by the absence of public awareness or infrastructure.
Indonesia this month announced that they were also sending back dozens of containers full of waste to France, Australia, and other developed countries. In May, Malaysia said it was sending back 450 tonnes of imported plastic waste to its sources.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 300 million tonnes of plastics are produced every year. Most of it ends up in landfills or seas, making it an international crisis.
In May this year, 187 countries signed a treaty which will allow nations to block the import of contaminated or hard to recycle plastic trash.
“For far too long developed countries like the U.S. and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean,” said Dr. Sara Brosche, a science advisor with the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) an international NGO dedicated to eliminating organic pollutants.
The U.S. is one of the few countries which did not sign the treaty.