‘We’ve been fine for years’: Official downplays effects of contaminated eggs from plastic waste-fueled tofu factory in E. Java

Chicken eggs. Photo: Max Pixel
Chicken eggs. Photo: Max Pixel

Last week, several Indonesian and international environmental groups released a shocking report that found high levels of dioxin and other harmful chemicals in eggs laid by chickens in a village in East Java. However, it seems the official response in Indonesia amounts to no more than a shrug thus far.

The study, conducted by environmental groups IPEN, Nexus3, Arnika Association and ECOTON, analyzed eggs from free-range chickens sampled at two sites in East Java where imported plastic wastes — mostly from the US — are dumped and used for fuel or burned to reduce volume.  

In the village of Tropodo, located in the Sidoarjo regency of East Java, the study found that egg samples collected near a tofu factory, which burns plastic waste for fuel, had the second highest level of dioxin in eggs from Asia ever measured. The report stated that, “An adult eating just one egg from a free-range chicken foraging in the vicinity of the tofu factory in Tropodo would exceed the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) tolerable daily intake (TDI) for chlorinated dioxins by 70-fold.”

Dioxin is a pollutant known to cause cancer, birth defects and Parkinson’s disease.

Similarly, in Bangun village, located in Mojokerto regency, East Java, egg samples collected near a rural waste dump site were found to contain alarming levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate, the key chemical in stain repellents.

While those findings may be highly alarming, officials in East Java don’t seem to be reacting with utmost urgency.

Sidoarjo Regent Saiful Ilah, for one, said he recently conducted a surprise inspection at the tofu factory in Tropodo. While he acknowledged that the factory burns plastic waste for fuel and that free-range chickens in the vicinity are often fed tofu dregs from the factory, he said he has not seen any health issues from the practice.

“Everyone here eats the eggs. From those free-range chickens,” Saiful said yesterday, as quoted by IDN Times.

“We’ve been fine for years. There are 47 tofu factories [in Tropodo]. They produce the same dregs.”

East Java Governor Khofifah said that plans are in place to convert energy sources at tofu factories in Tropodo, such as by building gas pipes to the village. However, she said the provincial government is only going to oversee the plan and have the regency carry it out. She did not say when the conversion would take place.

In 2018, China decided to ban imports of foreign plastic waste, throwing global recycling into chaos.

Huge quantities of rubbish from developed nations have since been redirected to Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. The archipelagic nation has returned dozens of containers of waste — which violated import rules — to the US and Europe this year, joining a chorus of other Southeast Asian nations that are increasingly unhappy about being used as dumping grounds for trash from Western countries.

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