‘Not a bin’: Cambodia to return plastic waste to US, Canada

Cambodia among Southeast Asian nations pushing back against Western waste shipments in wake of China import ban.

Cambodia container of plastics
A container opened by officials at Sihanoukville port in Cambodia, was found to contain about 1,600 tonnes of waste plastic [Cambodian Ministry of Environment/AFP]

Cambodia will send 1,600 tonnes of plastic waste back to the United States and Canada, an official said on Wednesday, the latest Southeast Asian country to signal it will not accept rubbish shipped from Western nations.

The rubbish was found a day earlier in scores of shipping containers at the port town of Sihanoukville and will be sent back to its origin, environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told AFP.   

“Cambodia is not a bin for out-of-date technology to be dumped in,” he said.

He said 70 containers full of plastic waste were shipped from the US while another 13 were sent from Canada.

System in chaos

China‘s decision last year to ban imports of foreign plastic waste threw global recycling into chaos, leaving developed nations struggling to find countries where they could send their rubbish.

Images of officials inspecting the containers, stuffed with bundled plastic, riled up Cambodian social media users.

The shipments were a “serious insult”, Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said in a Facebook post.

Huge quantities of rubbish have found their way to Southeast Asia but opposition to the trade is growing. 

Indonesia announced this month it was returning dozens of containers full of waste to France and other developed nations while neighbouring Malaysia said in May it was shipping 450 tonnes of imported plastic waste back to the countries that sent it.

Around 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, according to the environmental group WWF. Much of it ends up in landfills or polluting the seas.

Source: AFP