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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