SEOUL -- Customs officials found scrap trash such as metal and other unrecyclable waste inside the containers which have been illegally exported to the Philippines and brought back due to protests by environmental activists.
About 6,300 tons of selected plastic waste were shipped to Mindanao for recycling in July and October last year. The shipment sparked protests in the Southeast Asian country, with civic groups asking South Korea to bring back garbage containers.
The South's environment ministry said that 51 containers with 1,200 tons of waste were returned through a proxy execution to the southwestern port city of Pyeongtaek on February 3.
In a joint probe with environment ministry officials, customs officials in Pyeongtaek found that the containers included unprocessed scrap wood, metal and other types of waste. They would dispose of abandoned waste.
"We are carrying out a crackdown on plastic waste exporters," an unnamed ministry official said in a statement, adding the government would work out a legal system to prevent illegal exports of waste.
A South Korean company has sent garbage to the Philippines because of strict regulations which followed China's crackdown on imports of plastic waste.
Since 1988, nearly half of the planet's plastic trash has been sent to China, where the material was recycled to make more plastic goods. The 2017 ban, however, has left many countries scrambling for what to do with plastic waste. China's trash ban prompted South Korea to launch a campaign aimed at reducing plastic waste and pollution.
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