Cambodia To Return 1,600 Tons Of Waste To North America, Most Of It Will Come To The US

This recent discovery is a part of the escalating garbage war being waged in Southeast Asia.

Flattened plastic bottles in Thailand.
Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

This recent discovery is a part of the escalating garbage war being waged in Southeast Asia.

The Cambodian government discovered 1,600 tons of plastic waste in the country’s major port of Sihanoukville., the country’s environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told AFP, via Al Jazeera.

Cambodia intends to ship back the trash found in 83 shipping containers to the U.S. and Canada. Out of these containers, 70 of those containers are earmarked for America.

“Cambodia is not a bin for out-of-date technology to be dumped in,” said Pheaktra.

This new dumping of debris is just the latest episode in the trash war Southeast Asia is waging against more developed nations.

In May, Malaysian officials said they would be shipping 3,300 tons of plastic waste back to the U.S., Canada, and Australia according to the Associated Press, via Business Insider.

The Philippines sent 1,500 tons of illegally dumped trash back to Canada on a boat — marking the end of a six-year garbage war between the two countries, according to The Guardian. The country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Canada if they refused the returned trash.

The world’s richer nations have been exporting their waste for at least 25 years, particularly plastic waste that is sorted for recycling, Channel News Asia reported. For the past year, the problem has grown worse. Trash has accumulated in the ports of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam while plastics imported from Europe and the U.S. have built up across Malaysia, according to a separate report from The Guardian.

China’s decision to ban foreign plastic waste imports in 2016 reportedly threw global recycling into chaos, leaving Western nations struggling to find countries to send their trash. According to The Guardian, China took in at least half of the world’s exports of plastic, paper, and metals.

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On Tuesday the Cambodian government posted pictures on Facebook of officials inspecting the containers full of the trash in Sihanoukville. The post, which has since been removed, fueled outrage around the country.

The trash delivery was a “serious insult,” wrote Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol in a Facebook post.

Of all of the world’s plastics that are discarded, only 9 percent are recycled. The other 91 percent go to landfills in Southeast Asia or get illegally incinerated, which releases poisonous fumes into the environment, as noted by The Guardian.

“What’s happening in Southeast Asia, what’s happening in Malaysia, shows just how bankrupt the recycling system really is,” Von Hernandez, the global coordinator for the Break Free From Plastic initiative, said to HuffPost. “Consumers, especially those in the West, are conditioned to believe that when they separate their recyclables and throw them out, that it’ll be properly taken care of. But that’s been exposed as a myth.”