Indonesian President calls for stricter enforcement on importing used clothing and shoes, as scandal hits SportSG’s recycling program

Indonesian President calls for stricter enforcement on importing used clothing and shoes, as scandal hits SportSG’s recycling program

INDONESIA — Following intensive scrutiny by the local media of the practice of importing used clothing into the country, the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, has ordered an investigation to stem the illegal import of used clothing due to the disruption it causes to the domestic textile industry.

“The import of used clothing is disruptive. I have ordered to investigate thoroughly and within a day or two, many have been caught. This disrupts the domestic textile industry,” Jokowi told Indonesia media last Wednesday (15 Mar).

The Directorate General of Customs and Excise revealed that there were 234 enforcement actions against smuggled used clothing imports throughout 2022. From that number, 6,177 bales of used clothing were seized.

“Until 2022, Customs and Excise conducted 234 enforcement actions against used clothing, totaling 6,177 bales,” said the Director General of Customs and Excise, Askolani at the Ministry of Finance, Central Jakarta.

Import of second-hand clothing and footwear banned since 2015

Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade implemented the Prohibition of the Import of Used Clothing regulation in 2015 to prevent the import of used clothes and footwear over concerns about hygiene and the potential for spreading disease. This was also intended to protect the local textile industry.

Despite the ban, secondhand apparel and footwear are sold openly in many cities, including Jakarta.

Listyo Sigit Prabowo, Chief of the Indonesian National Police, has instructed his personnel across the country to conduct security checks at all entry gates, including those with customs clearance offices.

He has also instructed stern measures against smuggling and is collaborating with the Customs and Excise Directorate to cut off imports of second-hand products.

Recently, the Indonesian Fiber and Filament Yarn Producers Association (APSyFI) reported that the annual illegal clothing imports in Indonesia, including around 30% of used clothes, amounted to 300,000 tons worth around Rp 35 trillion (US$2.1 billion).

SportSG’s shoe recycling program hit by scandal

In 2020, the National sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) announced a pioneering partnership with Dow, a major producer of chemicals, to transform shoes contributed by members of the community into rubber granules meant for jogging tracks, fitness corners, and playgrounds around Singapore.

The ‘Others see an old shoe. We see the future’ project was meant to run for only three years but was turned into a permanent used-shoes collection drive in 2021.

However, an investigation by Reuters raised concerns about the programme after 11 pairs of shoes that were deposited by the international news agency in donation bins around Singapore over six months in July 2022, ended up shipped across the Singapore Strait to Batam Island, then on to Jakarta and other parts of the country.

SportSG and its partners have responded to the article in a joint statement on Monday (27 Feb), saying they had already conducted investigations after being alerted by the news outlet in January 2023.

According to the statement issued by SportSG, the investigations were completed on 31 January, and vulnerabilities were found in the process chain with Alba-WH’s subcontractor, which led to the collected shoes not being sent for recycling.

Alba-WH, in charge of collecting the shoes from almost 300 bins islandwide, had subcontracted the collection of the shoe recycling bins in selected parts of Singapore to Yok Impex, an aggregator for recyclables and reusables, in January 2022.

The bins were sorted at Yok Impex’s premises before being sent to Alba-WH’s warehouse for registering and weighing, after which the shoes were delivered to the B.T. Sports grinding facility.

The investigation found that the supply chain was compromised only at Yok Impex’s premises, where some shoes were extracted for resale instead of recycling.

“The aggregation of the shoe bins in parallel with Yok Impex’s sorting activities resulted in some shoes being extracted for resale instead of recycling,” said SportSG.

SportSG said that the program partners apologized to the public for the lapse and thanked Reuters for bringing up this matter so that they can take steps to remedy the situation.

It is unknown how Yok Impex exported the used shoes to Indonesia, given that it is illegal under Indonesian law.

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