Indonesia returns toxic containers to Rotterdam

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Indonesia has told the Netherlands and Great Britain it is sending back 113 containers of toxic waste, originally sent from Europe for “recycling”.  

The Indonesian environment ministry made the announcement on Friday. 

In January, environment inspectors discovered that 113 shipping containers, ostensibly filled with scrap metal, were contaminated with electronic waste and asphalt, according to the Jakarta Globe. Some containers were “oozing a white liquid.”

Further investigations revealed that the waste included sulfuric acid and toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and chromium.

Cheap offloading in developing countries
The containers were originally sent from the Dutch port of Rotterdam and the British port of Felixstowe. A Jakarta court has ruled that the company that imported the containers should pay the shipping costs back to Europe.

Environmental groups welcomed the decision, saying it is simple and cheap for waste handling companies to offload problematic material on developing countries.

In January, Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya stressed that his country only accepted scrap metal if it met certain standards.

Britain’s Environment Agency said Britain has been requested to take back 1,800 tonnes of the waste. The BBC reports that 89 of the 113 containers are British.


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide