9 Sep, 2008, 0032 hrs IST, TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES
LONDON/NEW DELHI: Garbage is literally flying and hitting the roof thousands of kilometres away. A TV report about household waste collected weekly across Britain for recycling being shipped and dumped in India has the green brigade up in arms.
As part of Britain's efforts to go green and improve the environment, UK councils ask households to carefully separate waste into different categories: plastics, metal, paper and glass so that they can be recycled.
But, according to an investigation by a British TV channel, these bags are shipped to India on the waste black market, which is cheaper. It costs up to £148 (Rs 12,000) to recycle a tonne of rubbish once it is separated but only £40 (Rs 2,800) to ship it to India.
The investigation found that a receipt put into a paper recycling bin in Essex turned up at the top of a stinking rubbish mound in Tamil Nadu. It was traced to the Walton-on-the-Naze home of Geoff Moore.
His receipt for CDs was found by investigators at a sprawling rubbish heap in Tamil Nadu. They also found juice cartons, British newspapers, Walkers crisp packets, UK school reports and plastic bags.
"International waste follows the path of least resistance just like water. India has little resistance to imports of waste," said Gopal Krishna, environmental health researcher at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "In fact in India there has been an attempt to alter the very definition of waste in order to keep the waste streams flowing. In the last meeting of the Basel Convention, which bans export of hazardous waste from rich to poor countries, the Indian government said that it encouraged trade in recyclable 'metal scrap'. They defined the problem in a way as to justify its continuation."
India has still not ratified the Basel Convention which would have made it mandatory for India to change its domestic laws and stop this nefarious and dangerous trade.
Syamala Mani, director of waste and resource management group at the Centre for Environment Education describes it as dangerous and harmful. "In the garb of municipal waste we end up with dangerous chemicals like plastics and containers that have been used for hazardous chemicals."
Mani said unscrupulous traders grind this and reproduce recycled containers that could then be used to carry food items causing immense risk to public health.
"Biomedical waste and heavy metals too find their way into India through this waste. And we don't even have a single formal metal recovery waste unit in India. All of it is done cheaply in the unregulated sector, which releases the polluting by-products in the air we breathe and the water in our rivers."
Groups in Tamil Nadu have been trying to fight imported waste that’s steadily piling up in the state.
According to a report, about 180 tonnes of US waste was dumped into farm wells near Coimbatore and another 1,000 tonnes is rotting in Tuticorin port. Two cases relating to waste dumping have come up in TN courts recently — one challenging a panchayat decision to cancel a license given to White Star Fibres Ltd for sorting waste paper.
All UK councils are required to recycle. But after householders separate their rubbish and bin workers collect it, councils pass it on to waste firms, who in turn use subcontractors. They are under no obligation to reveal what they actually do with it.
European Union bans sending waste abroad for dumping but allows it to go overseas if it has already been separated and provided that it is actually recycled.
After the TV report, Britain's Environment Agency promised to investigate the matter. Paul Bettison of the Local Government Authority Environment Board called for a change in the law and said, "If a contractor refuses to reveal where materials are being sold it can undermine the whole process."
Copyright © 2008 Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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