Eighty three shipping containers filled to the brim with plastic waste on Cambodia's main seaport had originated from the US and Canada, according to Cambodian officials.
The two Western countries had exported 83 shipping containers filled with plastic waste to the port of Sihanoukville.
The Environment Ministry confirmed they will be returning the shipment of 1,600 tonnes of garbage, stating: "Cambodia is not a dustbin".
Neth Pheaktra, spokesperson for the Environment Ministry, told the Guardian: “Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country.”
In a Facebook post, Preap Kol, the executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, slammed the move as a “serious insult” to the country.
The customs ministry is investigating how this shipment arrived in Cambodia, and a government committee has vowed the company responsible for the shipment will be fined and brought to court.
Cambodia is the latest Asian country to reject plastic pollution shipments from Western nations, after China banned foreign plastic imports last year.
The UK, US, Canada and Australia were among the states left scrambling to find new destinations to send their waste.
Developing south-east Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia became targets, before they also started rejecting the shipments.
In May 2019, most of the world’s countries agreed to restrict shipments of plastic waste to developing countries. They must also gain approval from the governments before trashcan be sent.
The pact is part of an amendment to the Basel Convention, a treaty designed to reduce movement of waste pollution between nations.
The US is not signatory to the Basel Convention.