Brazil to Sue UK over Waste Shipment

29 July 2009

Brasilia has threatened to launch a formal WTO complaint against the United Kingdom after discovering that 1,400 tons of waste that were mislabelled as recyclable plastic had been imported into Brazil from the UK.

"I'm surprised to learn that trash was improperly imported, with a false characterisation, from Britain into Brazil," Roberto Messias Franco, the head of Brazil's environmental agency, said in a statement.

"Brazil is not the world's dump," he said.

The WTO complaint will be based on the Basel Convention, an international treaty that has governed the cross-border movement of toxic waste since 1992, Brasilia said in a statement.

The waste, which arrived in 99 shipping containers at three Brazilian ports between February and May of this year, consisted of an assortment of household and clinical materials, including syringes, condoms, batteries, food scraps, cleaning products and used baby diapers, Brazilian media reported.

The source of the waste is still under investigation in the UK, but three men have been arrested in the area of Swindon, England, roughly 130 kilometres west of London, in conjunction with the case.

"The Environment Agency enforces the export of recyclable waste from England and Wales, and will not hesitate to prosecute any company or individuals found to have breached the strict laws on the export of waste," said Liz Parkes of Britain's Environment Agency.

"The United Kingdom has taken a strong global lead to stamp out the illegal waste trade, in order to protect people and the environment."

The British government has said it wants the waste returned to the UK for inspection and disposal, BBC News reported.

ICTSD reporting; "Brazil indignant over British waste imports," AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 19 July 2009; "Brazil to denounce Britain to WTO after receiving hazardous waste shipment," ASSOCIATED PRESS, 23 July 2009; "UK waste prompts Brazil complaint," BBC NEWS, 24 July 2009.

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