UK accused of dumping toxic waste overseas
THE UK government has been accused of dumping toxic household and industrial waste overseas in breach of an international convention.
Ministers were yesterday considering tightening the enforcement of rules after the discovery of hazardous medical and electrical waste in Brazil and Ghana.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn ordered an inquiry into two British firms linked to 90 shipping containers containing 1,400 tonnes of waste. They included syringes, condoms and nappies. The companies that received the waste – sent from Felixstowe to three Brazilian ports – had been expecting recyclable plastic.
In a separate case, the Ministry of Defence was unable to explain how one of its computers was found on a notorious dump on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana.
Young children extract scrap metal from electrical items there and are exposed to potentially lethal chemicals.
Inspectors from Brazil's environment agency, Ibama, found hospital waste in several containers, reportedly including bags of blood. Another container was full of dirty toys with a note in Portuguese saying they should be washed before being given to "poor Brazilian children".
Ibama president Roberto Messias said: "We will ask for the repatriation of this garbage. Clearly, Brazil is not a big rubbish dump of the world." The agency said that it was considering taking action against two British companies it believed were connected to yesterday's find – Worldwide Biorecyclables and UK Multiplas Recycling.
Ibama and federal prosecutors said five companies in Brazil had been fined between 60,000 and 150,000, despite protestations from the importers that they were duped and believed they were being sent recyclable plastic.
Benn admitted there might be weaknesses in the enforcement of rules on sending waste overseas, including a European directive banning the export of electrical waste. Speaking about the discoveries in Brazil, he said: "If there are lessons that need to be learnt about enforcement, then we will do that."
The investigation in Britain is likely to focus on Worldwide Biorecyclables and UK Multiplas companies,
The companies were not available for comment.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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