Photo taken on July 16, 2019 shows containers filled with plastic waste at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia. Cambodia has taken tough measures to curb illegal imports of plastic waste after the Southeast Asian nation found 83 containers filled with the waste at its seaport last month, officials have said. (Combodian Environment Ministry/Hand out via Xinhua)
by Nguon Sovan, Mao Pengfei
PHNOM PENH, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has taken tough measures to curb illegal imports of plastic waste after the Southeast Asian nation fou
nd 83 containers filled with the waste at its seaport last month, officials have said.
Environment Ministry Secretary of State and Spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on Tuesday that Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of plastic waste or other out-of-date e-waste.
“To prevent the illegal imports of plastic waste and other types of hazardous waste in the future, our authorities, especially customs officers, will be extra-vigilant in checks and will strengthen cooperation with other countries in the region through information sharing,” he told Xinhua.
Kun Nhim, director general of General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), said any import of plastic waste is banned under the kingdom’s law and the importer is subject to penalties.
“Any company found importing plastic waste or other hazardous waste will be fined and ordered to return it to the country or countries of origin,” he said at a press conference here last week.
The strict measures were taken after the country discovered 83 plastic waste-filled containers at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in the southwestern coastal province of Preah Sihanouk on July 16.
The waste, weighing 1,592 tons in total, was illegally imported to the country from the United States and Canada, Nhim said, adding that 70 containers, weighing 1,322 tons, were imported from the U.S., and 13, weighing 270 tons, from Canada.
He said before reaching Cambodia, the containers had passed through ports in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The customs chief said Chungyuen Plastic Manufacture Co., Ltd., wholly owned by Cambodian businessman Suon Lok, was the sole importer of the waste, saying that the company had brought the containers into Cambodia in 27 shipments, starting from September 2018 to January 2019.
“The company must return the 83 containers of plastic waste to the countries of origin by Aug. 24, 2019,” Nhim said, adding that the GDCE decided to fine the company 1.03 billion riel (253,900 U.S. dollars) for illegally importing the waste.
Nhim warned that if the company failed to send back the waste to its countries of origin by the deadline, the GDCE would take the company to court.
Pheaktra said tests conducted by the GDCE’s and Environment Ministry’s laboratories found that the waste did not contain any toxic materials or radioactive substances that could harm human health or environment, but any import of plastic waste is prohibited by the country’s law.
The spokesman said Southeast Asian nations such as Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and now Cambodia have become the destination for plastic waste exporters from industrialized nations such as the U.S., Britain and Canada after China stopped taking in foreign plastic waste for recycling last year.
“Cambodia is like other countries in the region, we do not accept foreign plastic waste,” he said.
The spokesman said Cambodia encourages investors to set up plastic waste factories to recycle “domestic” plastic waste because the country is also suffering from plastic pollution.
Pheaktra said the country produces nearly 4 million tons of rubbish a year, in which 20 percent is plastic waste.