Tens of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste from Scotland are being illegally dumped in Africa and Asia every year with the help of organised criminal gangs, according to an investigation by the Scottish government’s environmental watchdog.
Mountains of broken televisions, defunct microwaves, worn tyres, contaminated paper and other waste exported from Scottish homes and businesses end up threatening the environment and endangering the health of people in Nigeria, Zanzibar, Ghana, Indonesia, Pakistan, China and elsewhere.
But now the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is cracking down on the criminal trade, and has stopped eight major shipments this year. Four other illegal waste cargoes from Scotland have been intercepted by regulatory agencies in England, the Netherlands and Belgium since 2008 (see table below).
Using a combination of intelligence, surprise checks at ports, and unannounced inspections of waste companies, Sepa has begun to uncover a network of companies and individuals who try and make money from exporting waste.
Sometimes the exports are “dressed” as legitimate recycling operations, with waste electrical goods hidden behind a few rows of properly packaged and working TVs in shipping containers.