Plastic waste originated in the U.S. and Canada, says the Ministry of Environment.
Cambodian officials say 83 shipping containers filled with rubbish were shipped to the country from the U.S. and Canada.
The Phnom Penh Post reported Tuesday that officials broke into the containers at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port after they had been sitting at a terminal “for some time.” They were found to be filled mostly with plastic waste.
The newspaper said fake import documents reported the containers held recyclables.
Officials vowed to return the containers to their country of origin, and in a follow-up story the newspaper quoted a Ministry of Environment official as saying the shipments originated in the U.S. and Canada.
The shipment weighed some 1,600 tonnes.
Last month Greenpeace published a report entitled “Southeast Asia’s Struggle Against the Plastic Waste Trade,” and in the last year many nations in the region, notably Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, have been “leading a growing pushback against a deluge of unwanted and toxic shipments of waste from the developed world since China’s decision to ban imports” of many recyclable products.
The environmental group said between 2016 and 2018, the 10 countries in the region that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “saw plastic waste imports grow by a staggering 171%, from 836,529 tonnes to 2,265,962 tonnes. That’s equivalent to around 423,544 20-foot shipping containers.”
Greenpeace added that “making matters worse, much of it is mislabeled as ‘recyclable’ even though the shipments constitute hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated plastic and other mixed wastes from developed countries that cannot be processed. Some of these imports are illegally shipped into the region, leaving receiving nations with no real capacity to deal with such waste grappling with the magnitude of the mess.”
While applauding a declaration made by the ASEAN nations last month on combating marine debris, Greenpeace has called for an “immediate ban on all imports of plastic waste, even those meant for ‘recycling,’ and ensure all ASEAN countries ratify the Basel Ban Amendment” aimed at stopping the waste trade and adopt a policy to reduce production of single-use plastic packaging.