Illegal waste arrives back in UK from Brazil

August 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

We all know how unpleasant it can be scooping up the contents of our bin bag after a fox has had a good rummage, so spare a thought for the Environmental Agency team which is about to get their hands dirty but on an industrial scale.

A ship carrying 71 containers of toxic waste landed at Felixstowe Docks last week after being ordered back to the UK by Brazilian authorities; they had been shocked to discover that instead of recyclable plastics they were about to import hazardous and toxic waste. Whilst it is legal to export waste for recycling abroad, it is illegal to export waste for disposal.

According to Sky News, amongst the stinking rubbish were condoms, used nappies, bags of blood, syringes, bandages, household waste, car batteries and computer parts. The Brazilian Environment Agency (IBAMA) was understandably outraged and called for overseas countries to stop treating Brazil as the world’s rubbish dump.

The plan now is for the containers to be fumigated and sealed for a week, after which time Environmental Officers will sift through the waste for evidence of the perpetrators. Last month, three men from Swindon were arrested in connection with the crime, by Wiltshire Police and the Environmental Crime Unit which will be in charge of the investigation at Felixstowe. If found guilty the men could face an unlimited fine or two years in prison.

The Environmental Crime Unit was set up last year to target organised waste crime and consists of twenty former detectives, forensics experts and intelligence officers. We are all used to reading tales of people receiving draconian punishments for putting rubbish in the wrong bin or putting their bin out on the wrong day, but Environment Agency’s Liz Parkes was keen to assure people that this is not the purpose of the Unit “This is not about people putting rubbish in the wrong bins – we concentrate on those individuals and companies whose illegal activities have the potential to cause serious damage to the environment."

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Marks & Spencer customers rewarded for recycling

August 7, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Marks & Spencer and Oxfam have introduced a new scheme to try to persuade people to recycle more of their soft furnishings rather than sending them to the tip. The ‘Soft Furnishings Exchange Programme’ has just been launched by the high-street store and the charity, and it will hopefully prove popular with shoppers.

The system is simple. Shoppers who bought soft furnishings from M&S in the past can now take them into an Oxfam shop instead of throwing them away, and they will be given vouchers in return. Each voucher will be worth £5, and it will allow the customer to make purchases on any homeware, clothes or beauty products in any M&S store. The vouchers will be valid for one month after they have been handed out, and they can only be used with a purchase over £35.

This scheme follows on from the successful clothes exchange programme that Oxfam and M&S introduced last year. So far, the scheme has managed to prevent 3 million garments from going to landfill sites, as well as raising £2 million for Oxfam. The scheme has proved hugely popular because it has allowed customers not only to help the environment but also to donate to charity at the same time.

According to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), each year one million tonnes of textiles end up in landfill sites instead of being recycled. So if this scheme can help to reduce that number then it will surely be hailed as a success.

David McCullough, the director of trading at Oxfam, said that they are trying to make it “even easier” for people to recycle their textiles and to “make it curtains for poverty”.

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