INDONESIA'S crackdown on imported foreign waste has upset the village of Bangun, where residents say they earn more money, sorting through pieces of garbage than growing rice in once-lush paddy fields.

Overwhelmed by a spike in waste imports after China closed its doors to foreign garbage, Indonesia has tightened import rules and customs inspections, sending hundreds of tonnes of foreign waste back to their origin countries.

Green groups praised  the crackdown, but Bangun residents say restricting trash from countries like the United States, Canada and Australia will wipe out a key source of income.

''If they're going to forbid us from this, there must be a solution. The government hasn't provided us jobs,'' said Heri Masud as he took a break from sifting through rubbish piled-high around the village of 3,600 people.

The front and the backyard of homes in Bangun overflow with waste on land that once had been used to grow rice.

Villagers look for plastic and aluminum to sell to recycling firms. Tofy makers also buy waste to burn as fuel when making soya-based food. Masud said the money from sorting trash is used to fund activities such as sending villagers on the Haj Pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia.

''Every year 17 to 20 people from this village go on a Haj funded from this waste,'' he said.

Salam, 54, said recycled rubbish paid for his children's schooling, and also bought a house for his family and livestock. ''I have nine goats now,'' said Salam, who works as a waste broker between villages and and nearby paper factory and says his job easier than farming.

While it maybe more lucrative, the piles of garbage are a threat to villagers health, environmentalists say.

Research by the green group ECOTON found microplastics had polluted groundwater in Bangun and in the nearby Brantas river used for drinking water by 5 million people in the area.

Indonesia imported 283,000 tonnes of plastic waste last year, up 141% from a year earlier. The country is the second biggest contributor of plastic pollutants in the world's oceans, according to a 2015 study. [Agencies]


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