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Digging Up Dirt: Why Was UK Waste In Brazil?

September 22nd, 2009

RubbishAn investigation has begun into how British waste including soiled nappies and other household rubbish ended up being shipped to Brazil.

A team of environmental crime investigators have opened 14 of the 81 containers that were returned to the UK from Brazil last month.

A further 16 are due to arrive back shortly.

The containers were described as ‘mixed plastics’ when they left the UK for a recycling plant in Brazil but the Brazilian authorities allege the shipment was contaminated with household waste and hazarous materials.

The owners of the cargo ship MSC Serena agreed to shoulder the cost of repatriating the containers.

It is illegal to export waste for disposal under British law but it is legal to export recyclable materials that are deemed to be ‘low risk’, such as plastic and paper, without a permit.

The allegation is that some companies have been exposing this loophole and profiting by mixing contaminated waste with recyclable items.

So far the Environment Agency has found soiled nappies, rotting cardboard and cat food pouches in the containers.

The head of the Environment Agency’s crime team Andrew Higham told Sky News: “There’s a legitimate market for recyclables and it’s only right we should recycle but we’ve found that some of those bales are contaminated with other waste products.

“That is illegal. You cannot ship that kind of waste out of this country and that is something that the Environment Agency take a very, very strong view on.”

It is likely to take investigators six to eight weeks to sift through the waste.

Three men were arrested in the Swindon area in connection with the inquiry by Wiltshire Police on July 23 and have been bailed until October 23.

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