Two Singaporeans from a Indonesia-based recycling company have been accused by the country of importing 87 containers of plastic waste into the country without the correct permits, Reuters reported.
According to Rasio Ridho Sani, the director general of law enforcement for Indonesia's Environment Ministry, the containers were imported from Hong Kong, Spain, Australia, Canada and Japan, between May and June of 2019.
Some of the waste has been found to be contaminated by hazardous electrical waste, such as printed circuit boards, used remote controls and batteries.
Singaporeans are from a recycling company based in Indonesia
Rasio further stated that the Singaporeans are a director and a commissioner of an Indonesia-based recycling company, PT Advance Recycle, in Banten province on Java, as per Reuters.
He added: "We have to protect our community’s health and our environment. We don’t want our country to be other countries’ dump site. We must protect our sovereignty."
First case of its kind in Indonesia
Reuters further highlighted that the case is the first of its kind since Indonesia passed a law in 2009 on environmental protection and management.
The law provides for the prosecution of a person and business entity, should the person be committing an environmental crime on its behalf.
Rasio also pointed out that a person found guilty of illegally importing hazardous material could face a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of 15 billion rupiah (S$1.46 million).
Indonesia previously returned waste containers to places of origin
This latest case became public in the wake of Indonesia returning hundreds of containers carrying waste to their countries of origin.
It was a sign that Indonesia is pushing back against serving as a dumping ground for foreign trash, CNA reported.
Earlier in September, Indonesian customs officials stated that more than 300 containers with contaminated waste had been repatriated to the West, CNA highlighted.
From July to mid-September, nearly 550 containers carrying plastic, out of over 2,000, were found to have contained hazardous materials or non-plastic trash.
Heru Pambudi, Indonesia's Director-General Customs and Exercise stated that imported waste that had hazardous materials mixed in needed to be re-exported.
Additionally, action was being taken against three companies involved in the shipments.
Plastic waste redirected to Southeast Asia after China stopped accepting shipments
CNA further reported that massive quantities of plastic waste have been redirected to Southeast Asia since China stopped accepting foreign waste in an attempt to protect its environment.
Pambudi added that Australia has been the largest source of toxic materials.
Shipments will also be returned to the U.S., Germany, Greece, Belgium, Slovenia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Hong Kong, France and Britain.
Domestically, the Jakarta Post reported that Indonesia's mismanaged plastic waste reached about 3.22 million tonnes annually, according to a study by the journal Science.
Out of this amount, between 480,000 and 1.29 million tonnes have been estimated to end up in the ocean.
Top photo from DHANY KRISNADY/AFP/Getty Images