Sri Lanka Sends Hazardous Hospital Waste Back to the UK

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Sri Lanka has said it will be sending back 21 containers of waste sent from the UK after customs officials said they contained hazardous hospital waste that was not agreed upon by Sri Lankan authorities, in a breach of European and international waste regulations. 

According to a report from Al Jazeera, 21 containers filled with 260 tonnes of hazardous materials from hospitals that were labeled as carpets and mattresses.

The containers were imported from the UK to Sri Lanka by a private firm intent on recycling the contents.

Sri Lankan customs has now said it has rejected the imports, adding that they have been sent back to the UK after violating international sanctions on transporting hazardous waste. Authorities found that in 21 of the 263 containers imported into Sri Lanka from the UK, hazardous materials including hospital waste, soiled bandages and even body parts from mortuaries had been thrown into the mix. 

“The shipper had agreed to take back these 21 containers,” Sunil Jayaratne, a spokesperson for the Sri Lankan customs department has said. “We are working to secure compensation from those responsible for getting the containers into the country,” Mr Jayaratne added. 

A spokesperson from the English Environment Agency has said that “we are in contact with the Sri Lankan authorities and have requested more information which would allow us to launch a formal investigation.” 

Developing nations like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Malaysia have been targeted in the past by wealthier nations as a dumping ground for their waste. The problem was compounded by the fact that China announced it would no longer take imports of waste and recyclable materials, which has caused a number of headaches for major waste exporters like Australia and the U.K. 

Reports state that “another 242 containers from Britain, which the government said were holding illegal waste in violation of international law, remain abandoned at the same port and at a free trade zone outside Columbo.” 

The Sri Lankan government is currently fighting legal action against the importer for bringing prohibited waste into Sri Lanka, and says the containers will be sent back to the UK after breaching international waste laws. 

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