Cambodia will return 83 shipping containers loaded with plastic waste to the United States and Canada, the country’s Environment Ministry has announced. The move comes as Southeast Asia tires of accepting the west’s refuse.
The shipping containers were discovered on Tuesday in Sihanoukville, once a sleepy fishing village and now an overdeveloped, rubbish-strewn port city on the country’s south coast. Though the ministry does not yet know which companies were responsible for bringing in the containers, a spokesman said that 70 were American and 13 came from Canada.
Any companies found responsible will be prosecuted, he said.
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“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,” the spokesman said. A week earlier, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a similar statement, saying his country forbids the importation of waste.
Western nations have shipped their plastic waste to China for processing and recycling for decades, but were forced to look for new destinations last year when the Chinese government banned foreign waste imports.
The burden has since fallen heavily on south east Asia, though countries in the region are also growing tired of cleaning up the West’s messes. Indonesia returned eight containers of what it said was “contaminated” waste back to Australia last week, after returning nearly 50 containers to France the week before.
Malaysia sent 450 tons of imported waste back to western countries in May, while Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte threatened the same month to personally sail with 69 containers worth of Canadian waste and dump it in Canadian waters.
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