UK

Indonesia presses UK to take back 'contaminated' scrap

Scrap metal
Image caption Indonesia can accept scrap metal from the UK as long as it meets certain standards

Indonesia has asked the UK to take back 1,800 tonnes of suspected contaminated waste, the Environment Agency has revealed.

In January inspectors in Jakarta found 89 waste containers exported from the UK as "scrap metal" appeared to contain liquid and other illegal mixed waste.

The Environment Agency said it had begun an investigation and was working closely with Indonesian authorities.

UK companies are not allowed to export contaminated waste to Indonesia.

Certain standards

In 2011, 51 waste containers which were due to be exported were held or returned to the UK, while in 2010 the Environment Agency received 31 requests to repatriate 407 tonnes of waste.

The containers found at the Tanjung Priok port are due to be released at the end of March. They are then expected to take four weeks to reach the UK.

The containers apparently included soil and other waste withthe Jakarta Globe reporting thatduring a spot check, customs officials found the scrap materials "accompanied" by asphalt, sand, plastics and oozing white liquid.

At the time Environment minister Balthasar Kambuaya was quoted as saying that Indonesia accepted scrap metal as long as it met particular standards.

He said: "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..

'Vigorous action'

A statement on the Indonesian Ministry of Environment websitestates that it was believed that the importer had violated the terms of its waste licence.

Andy Higham, who has taken the lead in the investigation for the Environment Agency, said: "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."

When the containers arrive in the UK, they are expected to be fumigated first to ensure they are safe for officers to carry out further investigations.

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