The Brazilian government announced it has returned 1,500 tons of hazardous waste that arrived from Britain labeled as recyclable plastic. The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources said 89 containers left for Felixstowe, UK, from the port of Santos, in southeastern Brazil, on board MSC Oriane.
The containers, which arrived between February and May at Brazilian ports in Santos and Rio Grande do Sul were labeled recyclable plastic, but were found to be packed with domestic and hospital waste including batteries, used syringes, condoms, old medicine and dirty diapers.
Three Brazilian men living in the UK have been arrested in connection with a probe into alleged illegal shipments of waste. They were held after officers from the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Police raided three properties in Swindon last month.
A 49-year-old, a 28-year-old and a 24-year-old man were detained before being bailed until the end of October. Waste can be sent abroad for recycling, but it is illegal to export it for disposal. The maximum penalty for breaking the rules is an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.
Brazil's government said it would make a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization over the container deliveries. Officials said under the Basel Convention, shipments of toxic waste from industrialized nations were banned.
Brazilian authorities also sanctioned companies involved in importing and transporting the hazardous waste with fines up to US$ 225,000.
Ingrid Maria Furlan Oberg, chief of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources's (Ibama) branch in Santos, informed that 41 containers from the city's port were added to 40 others that came from the state of Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil.
There are an extra eight containers in Caxias do Sul, also in Rio Grande do Sul that will be repatriated later. Oberg's assessment:
"For us at Ibama, this trash going back is the end of a task. The sensation is good, it produced the results we expected. And it is symbolic because it shows that Brazil does not accept this kind of behavior. Let it serve as an example to other countries."