The Environment Ministry yesterday said the 83 rubbish-filled containers found at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port came from the United States and Canada.
The 83 containers, filled with unwanted plastic waste, were first discovered on Tuesday when national and local officials visited the site to inspect the containers and identify their sources.
Shortly after the visit, the officials vowed to return the containers back to where they came from.
Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra yesterday said 70 of the containers were shipped from the US, while 13 came from Canada.
“Based on preliminary results of the investigation, those 83 containers contain banned plastic rubbish […], which were imported from the US and Canada,” Mr Pheaktra said. “They [the containers] weigh about 1,600 tonnes.”
He noted that on Wednesday, officials from his ministry cooperated with the Economy Ministry’s General Department of Customs and Excise to open all 83 containers to look for evidence.
“Expert officials are conducting an in-depth investigation to find out why these containers were allowed to enter Cambodia,” Mr Pheaktra said. “The authorities are also investigating companies who are importing plastic rubbish so action against them can be taken.”
He noted that banned rubbish is dangerous for the environment.
“The import of banned plastic rubbish was labelled under ‘recycled products’, without anything saying ‘plastic waste’,” Mr Pheaktard said.
“The government has been implementing laws against all kinds of banned imports,” he added. “The government is absolutely not allowing such plastic waste to be recycled in Cambodia.”
“Cambodia is not a dumpsite for outdated technology waste and Cambodia will always oppose the import of plastic and autoparts to be recycled here,” he said.
Kun Nhim, director-general of the General Department of Customs and Excise, could not be reached for comment yesteday.
However, he told the Associated Press that action was taken on the issue after other countries in the region brought the issue to the attention of Cambodian officials.
Mr Nhim reportedly said the 83 containers arrived over a period of time beginning in October 2018.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, yesterday wrote on Facebook saying the import of banned rubbish is unacceptable.
“If someone puts rubbish in front of your house, will you agree?” Mr Kol said. “As for me, I will ask where it came from, complain at their home and demand responsibility.”
“[I would] demand a public apology and have the rubbish returned to its original source,” he added. “I don’t care who owns the rubbish.”
US embassy spokeswoman Emily Zeeberg yesterday said in an email that the embassy is monitoring the issue.
“The US Embassy is monitoring reports of plastic waste at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port,” Ms Zeeberg said. “We have requested additional information and are offering US government assistance to determine both the exporter (country of origin) and the importing entity here in Cambodia.”
Representatives of the Canadian embassy could not be reached for comment.
According to media reports, Cambodia is not the first country in Southeast Asia to ban rubbish imports from overseas. Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, have also sent back containers full of rubbish to Canada, France and other developed nations.