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Concerns over waste "smuggling"

Concerns have been raised about the practice of smuggling waste from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) to Northern Ireland (NI).

While such moves could distort recycling figures and undermine processing initiatives in the Republic, the biggest concern from these shores is that it could also lead to more hazardous streams entering the UK illegally.

An Environment Agency source said: Its been a problem with municipal waste trundled over the border to materials recycling facilities. Those responsible think if they can mix it in with NI waste, it will look much the same and they can get away with it.

We then have material entering UK paper mills and plastics plants from the Republic of Ireland. Of greater concern is that it is not a great leap of imagination that if they can hide this, they will start trying to hide other more harmful streams.

With a lower population density in the ROI, the source suggested that implementing a network of incinerators to deal with waste may prove less economical there than it is here.

And with less of a legacy from mineral extraction meaning there is not as many available sites for landfill, it is feared such incidents may detract from moves to increase the countrys processing capacity. 

When it comes to intercepting shipments [to the UK mainland], it is very much intelligence-led and involves checking the paperwork to see if it contains what it says it does. But finding illegal waste is difficult as in general terms it all looks the same. Only items such as newspapers may give an indication as to where it originates.

But if waste leaks out on the cheap, it will start undermining initiatives to establish facilities in the Republic and Ireland. And if it goes on for a while, statistics wont be recorded and it will distort the waste and recycling figures of the UK and Republic of Ireland, the source added.

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