Los Angeles Times+ Your Authors @latimes Bringing L.A. to the world and the world to L.A. Subscribe now: membership.latimes.com/ Oct. 25, 2019 1 min read + Your Authors

The people of Bangun have become very familiar with the U.S. by rooting around in its trash.

They have combed through ripped sleeves of Oreos, empty packages of Trader Joe’s meatballs, discarded DVDs and much, much more.  https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-10-25/plastic-pollution-waste-recycling-indonesia 

Bangun is at the receiving end of a transoceanic waste trade worth more than $1.5 billion a year.

The U.S. and other wealthy nations have long sent cargo ships of scrap to Asia, where it is sorted and recycled to fuel industries. 📸: @SBengali  https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-10-25/plastic-pollution-waste-recycling-indonesia 

A dirty secret of the waste trade is that the paper shipments often include other garbage, like municipal trash, that can't be used in manufacturing.

But even that has value in Indonesia. 📸: @SBengali  https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-10-25/plastic-pollution-waste-recycling-indonesia 

Paper mills sell the trash to nearby villages, where cottage industries have popped up to pick through it and extract any remaining value. In Bangun, most of the families work in waste, and recyclers are after aluminum cans, metal wire and hard plastic.  https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-10-25/plastic-pollution-waste-recycling-indonesia 

Whatever can't be resold, like grocery bags, winds up lining the roadsides and blanketing fields, catching in trees, tumbling into waterways and turning the village into what some describe as a toxic dump.

But this arrangement may not last much longer. 📸: @SBengali

Under pressure from environmental groups, Indonesia has started cracking down on imports of foreign waste in an effort to reduce soil, water and air pollution.

Environmentalists cheer this news, but residents of Bangun have a different reaction. 📸: @SBengali

📝 Do you have questions about the Asia/U.S. waste trade? Let us know in the comments below the story:  https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-10-25/plastic-pollution-waste-recycling-indonesia 


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