EXCLUSIVE: Questions about the export of waste to Sri Lanka which have been deemed illegal by Sri Lanka’s Environmental Authority have been raised this week in parliament. And, recycling minister Rebecca Pow has warned that those responsible could be jailed for up to two years.
Mattresses and carpets appear to a key item within the exports and the Sri Lankan authorities said today (13 November) that the importers appeared to be taking apart the imported products (which include mattresses and carpets) for onward materials despatch out of Sri Lanka.
In Parliament, Ruth Jones, Member of Parliament for Newport West, asked the Secretary of State for Environment, George Eustice, what discussions he has had with his Sri Lankan counterpart on the 21 containers of waste returned to the UK from that country in September 2020.
Mrs Jones said that she was “shocked that these containers were first dispatched from the UK in 2017″.
Speaking about the shipments, she told letsrecycle.com: “We need to take ownership of our own waste and not ship it off to poorer countries which are less able to recycle or dispose of it safely. This means we need to look at the whole cycle of production of goods to ensure we do not continue to use virgin products and that goods produced can be recycled and component parts reused.”
The Newport West MP added: “We also need better waste collection and waste management sites and units across the UK along with increased government efforts to enable the citizens of the UK to behave responsibly as we work to green our management of waste.”
Responding in Parliament on 9 November on behalf of the secretary of state, waste and recycling minister, Rebecca Pow said the UK’s Environment Agency, as the competent authority for waste shipments for England, is “proactively engaging with the authorities in Sri Lanka on these containers and is leading the response on this matter”.
Mrs Pow added: “The 21 containers arrived back in England on Wednesday 28 October. The containers, which were shipped to Sri Lanka in 2017, were found by Sri Lankan authorities to contain illegal materials described as mattresses and carpets which had been exported for recycling.
“With the shipment now back on English soil, Environment Agency enforcement officers will seek to confirm the types of waste shipped, who exported it and the producer of the waste. Those responsible could face a custodial sentence of up to two years, an unlimited fine, and the recovery of money and assets gained through the course of their criminal activity.”
In Sri Lanka today, the country’s Central Environmental Authority (CEA) pledged that strict laws will be implemented to stop the importing of illegal cargo containers which Consist of domestic and urban waste from foreign destinations to Sri Lanka in the future.
Speaking to the country’s Daily News paper, CEA Waste Management Unit and Director, Ajith Weerasundara said that out of 263 containers of domestic and urban waste which were shipped to Sri Lanka, 106 containers have so far been sent back to the United Kingdom.
Mr Weerasundara said that the materials in the containers included used carpets and mattresses and suggested that traders were looking to segregate the materials “into different parts” and then send items to other countries.
Asked whether the CEA would take legal action against the Sri Lankan companies who were responsible to import this cargo, the Director said it was not the CEA but the Sri Lanka Customs who were responsible to make inquiries from relevant parties in this regard and take legal action against the importers for transporting these waste containers to Sri Lanka.
The CEA Director further said that the waste imports had not received prior approval from the Sri Lankan Import and Export Control Department before being shipped from the United Kingdom.
Daily News Sri Lanka