Waste

Sri Lanka Court of Appeal to intervene in UK waste trade scam

Since east Asian countries are closing the loopholes in their waste trade laws, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh seem to be the new targets

 
By Hemantha Withanage
Last Updated: Saturday 17 August 2019
Sri Lanka has prohibited the import of post-consumer material. Photo: Pablo Ares Gastesi/Flickr
Sri Lanka has prohibited the import of post-consumer material. Photo: Pablo Ares Gastesi/Flickr Sri Lanka has prohibited the import of post-consumer material. Photo: Pablo Ares Gastesi/Flickr

Sri Lanka is a latest victim of the global waste trade. In May 2019, Sri Lanka Customs Department found 111 containers filled with used mattresses, carpets, plant parts and some hospital waste contaminated with biomedical waste in the Colombo harbour which have been imported in mid-2017. Once investigation started the Central Environmental Authority, the government agency responsible for pollution control also found another 130 containers unloaded in the Katunayake Free trade zone, near the Colombo International airport.

This waste has been exported by Vengaads Ltd located in Sewardstone gardens in London and final receiver in Sri Lanka is Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation Ltd, located in Wattala Sri Lanka. These two companies are owned by two brothers.  The Consignees are Hayleys Free Zone Ltd and ETL Colombo Pvt Ltd.

Centre for Environmental Justice, a Sri Lankan environmental organisation filed a lawsuit seeking the court to prevent transporting the waste containers to other internal destinations other than for the purpose of reexport to the origin in the United Kingdom.

During the court hearing, it was found that more than 1,000 other containers were lying in the Colombo harbour without anyone claiming the ownership. Customs Department suspected that they could also contain similar waste. 

During the court hearing, attorneys for the Hayleys Free Zone said they have imported these items under the Hub Operation of the Board of Investment (BOI) to recover the metal springs and the cushions to export back to some other destinations possibly India. They have already exported 29 containers of recovered materials to India and Dubai in 2018.

According to the CEJ, they could recover less than 30 per cent of the material and the rest will become waste. Although the BOI hub operation prohibits selling or dumping of any material imported under this hub operation, Sri Lanka cannot send such waste to any other destination.

The court found that they have imported this waste without a valid license under the Export and Import Control Act and the Central Environmental Authority which is a violation under the Basel Convention. 

Sri Lanka has prohibited the import of post-consumer material. Although Sri Lanka has no separate regulations to control imports under the Basel Convention, most recent regulation published in the gazette no. 2044/40 of 09 November, 2017 under the Import and Export Act No 1of 1969 covers such imports.

After three days of hearings, Court of Appeal granted leave to proceed. The court requested the Government Analyst to examine the goods in issue and present a report to the court as soon as possible.

The respondents were directed to facilitate the Government Analyst to access the relevant sites, open the relevant shipping containers and examine the relevant goods.

The court said this interim order should not be interpreted as a bar or restriction imposed on any law enforcement or regulatory measure any competent law enforcement or regulatory authority may wish to take in terms of the law with regard to the consignments referred to in this order.

Since China has announced stopping receiving waste, western waste traders have sent their waste to East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines etc. However, since Asian countries are closing the loopholes, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh seem to be the new targets.

(This column is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Down To Earth)

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