Massive Toxics Trade Bust

Officials at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Port investigate shipping containers in which hazardous waste was found. (Antara Photo/Ujang Zaelani)

From Resource Recycling, by Henry Leineweber.

Customs officials in Indonesia are putting the pieces together on the country’s largest toxic waste seizure in several years.

In late January, port authorities in Jakarta inspected and seized 113 containers of mixed toxic scrap, falsely labeled as scrap steel bound for Hwa Hok Steel. When inspectors began opening the containers, instead of dry, recoverable scrap metal, they found a wet mess of various metals, dirt, asphalt, electrical wiring, plastics, printed circuit boards and other miscellaneous trash, according to Yuyun Ismawati of the Indonesia Toxics-Free Network. Not only is it illegal to import wet, mixed material into the country, but concerns that some of the dirt may have been hazardous incinerator slag, as well as visible toxic warning labels on some of the materials prompted the Indonesian authorities to treat the scrap as hazardous.

The containers appear to have originated from Europe, with 89 containers being shipped from Felixtowne, England by Stemfor Ltd. and the remaining 24 shipped from Rotterdam, the Netherlands via Diamond Bar, California-based W.R. Fibers, Inc.

A request for comment to W.R. Fibers was not returned.

Ismawati’s organization was joined by the Seattle-based Basel Action Network and other environmental groups in urging countries to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which explicitly prohibits the transfer of toxic materials from developed to developing countries.

No charges have yet been filed, but Indonesian authorities say the containers will remain in port, pending legal action.