European commissioner for the environment Janez Potočnik (pictured) has called for a crackdown on illegal shipments of hazardous waste from EU member countries over fears dumping in Africa and Asia is causing “serious illness”.
Proposals put forward by the European Commission (EC) argue that existing waste shipment regulations should be tightened up to prevent unscrupulous waste operators circumventing the ban on exporting hazardous waste.
The EC said member states should be required to carry out regular, risk-based, on-the-spot inspections, with greater co-operation between authorities and better training of inspectors.
According to the EC, about 25% of waste shipments sent from the EU to developing countries in Africa and Asia contravene international regulations. It said hazardous waste was “often dumped or mismanaged”, causing serious illness and damage to the environment.
It said that while some EU countries carried out effective inspections, others carried out “only very few and insufficient controls”. This can lead to “port hopping”, where criminals choose to export their waste from ports with the most lenient controls, it warned.
Potočnik said: “It’s time for stricter controls in all member states – that’s the best way of stopping dishonest exporters from taking advantage of the system. Today’s proposal will help to reduce mismanagement of waste, make sure hazardous waste is dealt with properly and see that valuable resources are reused.”
Illegal waste shipments from the EU often stem from uncontrolled collection, storage and sorting facilities, which allows illegal operators to get hold of the waste.
The EC proposal argues that effective inspections could save money as clean-up and repatriation costs incurred from illegal dumping would be avoided.
They could also prevent the “leakage” of valuable raw materials contained in waste, such as precious minerals like cobalt and indium in electronic waste, which could be made available for recycling.