By James Massola, Chris Vedelago and Amilia Rosa/The Age


Australian company Visy Recycling was behind the export of a container of plastic waste – including some from Melton council – that is regarded as toxic in Indonesia, according to documents seen by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

The document shows the container was sent by Visy, one of the world’s biggest recycling companies, inspected in Melbourne on May 21, 2019, marked as “non-B3” mixed plastic scrap – that is, non-toxic waste – weighing 13.7 tonnes. It was shipped to the Batu Ampar port in Batam where customs officials opened it and found it stinking and leaking black sludge and maggots. The recipient was intended to be local recycling firm Royal Citra Bersama.

Separately, Indonesian customs officials in the country’s second largest city, Surabaya, have confirmed they are planning to send eight other containers of waste back to Australia.

The Surabaya containers were supposed to only have paper in them, but instead they contain plastic as well, and were “mixed with trash,” according to Narko, a spokesman for customs in Surabaya’s port of Tanjung Perak. They are also considered by Indonesia to contain waste designated “B3”.

B3 is short for Bahan Berbahaya dan Beracun – hazardous and toxic materials. It is barred from entry to Indonesia.

Photos of the interior of the shipping container showed Omo and Dynamo containers, Western Star butter, Greek Yoghurt and Streets Blue Ribbon tubs, Morning Fresh cleaning liquid, building products and dozens of car engine oil bottles.

There was also a recycling bin from the Melton City Council, with which Visy has a collection contract.

City of Melton planning and development general manager Luke Shannon said the council was “aware that some of the city of Melton’s plastic recycling is sent overseas by our contractor, Visy”.

Visy did not reply to multiple requests for comment on whether it knew if there was contaminated plastic in the container, whether it had inspected the plastic or if it was fit for shipping.