Tag Archives: illegal waste dumping

How to Spend $18 billion on Foreign Garbage

image from wikipedia

China sucked in more than half the world’s exports of scrap copper and waste paper in 2016, and half of its used plastic. All in all, China spent over $18bn on imports of rubbish in 2016. America, meanwhile, is an eager supplier. In 2016 nearly a quarter of America’s biggest exporters by volume were recyclers of paper, plastic or metal. Topping the list was America Chung Nam, a California-based supplier of waste paper which last year exported a whopping 333,900 containers, almost all of them to China.

This may soon change. On July 18, 2017 China told the World Trade Organisation that by the end of the year, it will no longer accept imports of 24 categories of solid waste as part of a government campaign against yang laji or “foreign garbage”. The Ministry of Environmental Protection says restricting such imports will protect the environment and improve public health. But the proposed import ban will disrupt billions of dollars in trade. Recyclers worry that other categories of waste may soon receive the same treatment.

It is often cheaper to recycle scrap copper, iron and steel, as well as waste paper and plastic, than to make such materials from scratch, especially when commodity prices are high. So as commodity prices rose during the 2000s, the burgeoning trade in waste benefited both exporters, who made money from previously worthless trash, and importers, who gained access to a reliable stream of precious feedstock. Between 1995 and 2016 Chinese imports of waste grew tenfold, from 4.5m to 45m tonnes.

But imports of recyclable waste are often dirty, poorly sorted or contaminated with hazardous substances such as lead or mercury. In 1996 factories in Xinjiang inadvertently imported more than 100 tonnes of radioactive metal from Kazakhstan. The following year an American businessman was convicted of smuggling over 200 tonnes of unsorted rubbish labelled as waste paper. Even when the intended material is imported, it is often recycled improperly. In 2002 the authorities faced widespread criticism after a documentary showed workers in Guangdong province crudely dismantling discarded electronic devices and dumping the toxic remains into a river. Officials may have been spurred into the latest restrictions by the release of Plastic China, an unflattering documentary about the plastic-recycling industry which was screened at Sundance, a grand American film festival, in January 2017,

The government had already been campaigning to block imports of illegal and low-quality waste under a crackdown called Operation Green Fence launched in 2013….Whereas Green Fence was aimed at improving the quality of imported waste, the government’s latest move bans several types of waste outright, threatening some $5bn in trade. But…. recyclers who rely on imports may now switch to grubbier domestic stock.

Excerpts from Waste Management: Anti-Dumping, Economist, Aug. 5, 2017, at 32

How Ships Dump Oily Waste at Sea

Bilge compartment in a steel hulled ship (looking down).  Image from wikipedia

A ship company based in Germany and the chief engineer on one of its vessels have agreed to plead guilty to illegally dumping oily water off Alaska.  The AML Ship Management GMBH and Nicolas Sassin, the chief engineer on the AML-operated ship City of Tokyo, agreed to plead guilty to violating federal clean water law by knowingly dumping 4,500 gallons of oily bilge water south of the Aleutian Islands.  The company and Sassin, 45, face a separate charge of presenting false pollution oversight records to the U.S. Coast Guard when the vessel docked in Portland, Oregon, prosecutors said.  As part of the plea deal, AML agreed to pay $800,000 in fines and community service payments…

Discharge of oily waste from vessels is a worldwide problem, said Kevin Feldis, first assistant U.S. attorney.”This is the first time we have charged Clean Water Act crimes for an actual discharge of oil into the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) off the coast of Alaska,” Feldis said in an email. “As detailed in the court documents, witnesses saw a sheen off the side of the vessel after the chief engineer hooked up a pump to illegally dump oily bilge water overboard.

Water routinely accumulates in the bilge, or bottom, of vessels. Federal law requires ships to store it until it can be treated on shore, or to run it through an onboard oil-water separator. Water that contains less than 15 parts per million of petroleum can be dumped overboard…On Aug. 29, 2015  as the ship passed 165 miles south of Alaska’s Sanak Island, Sassin used an illegal pump system to dump untreated oily bilge water over the side of the 603-foot ship, bypassing the oil-water separator and other pollution control equipment, prosecutors said.

“Nobody knows exactly how much oily waste is illegally dumped from ships, but as this case demonstrates, a determined engineer with a few pieces of equipment who does not have proper oversight can easily circumvent the pollution prevention equipment onboard vessels,” Feldis said.

Excerpt fro DAN JOLING German company, ship’s chief engineer reach plea agreement in Alaska marine pollution case, Associated Press, Feb. 12, 2015

The Impact of Everyday Oil Spills

motor oil

“Silent oil spills” occur daily when oil is released into the environment during use or illegally dumping. Silent oil spills generate around 10 billion gallons of contamination in a single year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Developing a used oil recycling program” fact sheet, 40 percent of the pollutants in the water come from motor oil.

California’s bill, SB 916, attempts to address this by encouraging the use of bio-based motor oil. Most bio-based motor oils are made from the organic fatty acids found in various plants. The oil is non-toxic and is biodegradable….Very few are aware that 200 million gallons of used motor oil is illegally dumped in the United States every single year…More than twice as much motor oil enters the near shore waters off Los Angeles every year from urban runoff.

According to the EPA, petroleum based lubricants biodegrade slowly, they bioaccumulate in the tissues of marine organisms and they have high levels of aquatic toxicity. They also have much higher GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions relative to bio based alternatives, and of course, they are not renewable…

The fight to bring bio-based motor oil into the mainstream is an uphill battle for those seeking to unseat the deeply entrenched and deep pocketed gas and oil industry. Last year alone, the industry spent $144 million lobbying on legislators at the federal level.

Excerpt from Justin King, California attempts to battle ‘silent oil spills’ SPECIAL, Digital Journal, April 11, 2014

Illegal Toxic Waste Exports: Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea

The Bureau of Customs (Philippines) is looking into the alleged shipment in May 2012 of 14 containers of toxic waste from the Manila International Container Port (MICP) to Pusan, South Korea, via the southern Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung. The case is also being investigated by the International Police, according to Philippine Daily Inquirer sources at the BOC and National Bureau of Investigation.

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon last month told this paper he had instructed MICP Collector Ricardo Belmonte to “give me a report” on the issue. Last week, Biazon disclosed “the feedback of Collector Belmonte is that there’s no such toxic waste shipment” from the MICP….

When contacted, Intelligence group staff said they were “still tracing the source” of the alleged hazardous waste, declared as stainless steel by its Metro Manila-based exporter.  The same sources added they were also “trying to determine if the Philippines was the shipment’s actual point of origin or just a transshipment point.”….

INQUIRER sources identified the shipper, the shipment’s consignee bank and contact party in Incheon, South Korea, but asked not to publish their names.  According to the shipment’s bill of lading, the 14 containers were loaded on the MV YM Immense, a container ship belonging to the Yang Ming Marine Transport, a shipping firm based in Keelung City, Taiwan.The Monrovia-registered vessel,[flag state Liberia] built in 2006, is 173 meters long and has a gross weight of 16,848 tons. Meanwhile, the BOC will closely scrutinize this year the business records of bureau-accredited exporters and importers and unmask not only smugglers but also fly-by-night and fictitious traders.  Biazon said “it’s true smuggling is still one of the biggest problems facing the bureau.” However, he emphasized “it’s not true that we are not addressing the problem.”

At the same time, he warned BOC officials and employees who have been making fortunes by conniving with smugglers, saying “the days of erring bureau personnel are definitely numbered.” “Those who continue to engage in illegal activities in connivance with smugglers will be targeted and will face the full force of the law,” according to Biazon.

Excerpt, Jerry E. Esplanada, BOC to pursue probe of alleged toxic waste shipment from Manila to South Korea, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan. 21, 2013

See also Overcoming National Barriers to International Waste Trade (pdf)

Turning Turkey into an Illegal Nuclear Dump: the evidence

Amid growing public concern about the discovery of radioactive waste buried at an abandoned factory in Izmir (Turkey), experts have pointed out to the possibility that there could be other sites with nuclear waste imported illegally into Turkey from foreign companies that operate nuclear plants.Public concerns about radioactive and other toxic waste began after a news report appeared in the Radikal daily last week about the discovery of highly radioactive waste buried at a defunct factory on Akçay Street, the main thoroughfare running through Izmir’s Gaziemir district. The Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK), which was assigned to test the plant on Tuesday, stated that the radioactive level at the site did not constitute a dangerous situation, but they didn’t address concerns about a radioactive material that might have been brought into Turkey illegally.   The factory, situated on more than 70 acres, used old batteries and scrap lead to produce cast lead until just a few years ago.

In relation to the inspection, a former senior manager of the Izmir factory, speaking on condition of anonymity to Radikal on Thursday, confirmed the fact that the toxic waste of the factory was buried on the site in an effort to save money by not sending the waste for proper disposal. However, he didn’t comment on the possibility of nuclear materials being brought in illegally.  It was also reported that locals, particularly children playing in the vicinity, had access to the plant as the wire fencing around the factory had corroded over time.

Radikal reported that TAEK had examined the site of the factory in 2007. A radioactive substance called europium, an illegally imported element used in nuclear reactor control rods, found on the site is thought to be the source of the radioactivity, a report from TAEK showed.  A nuclear engineer at Okan University, Tolga Yarman said the radioactive element could have entered the country along with other nuclear waste, as it was illegal to keep this substance in Turkey. In fact, other sites where nuclear waste was buried have been discovered. A similar case was reported in 1987 by Professor Ahmet Yüksel Özemre, a former general director of TAEK and Turkey’s first nuclear engineer….”The ministry should have ideal staffing levels to work more closely on the detection of nuclear waste cases by complying with European Union standards, and a control mechanism should be part of this improvement,” said Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning Deputy Undersecretary Mustafa Öztürk.  Professor Öztürk warned about tons of toxic waste which is illegally buried at many other plants in different provinces around Turkey.  “Toxic waste can only be kept on site at a plant for six months provided that plant authorities take the necessary environmental precautions, and the waste should be moved to disposal centers at the end of the period stated by law. However, plants keep running while their waste is buried in the soil without taking any precautions. This is the case for many provinces, including Istanbul, Samsun, Hatay, Kayseri and Mersin,” answered Öztürk to a question about the legal regulations regarding the conservation and disposal of toxic waste.

A similar case was reported in 1987 by Professor Özemre, who received an anonymous tip that 1,150 tons of radioactive waste, which were imported from Germany, had been buried on the site of the Göltas cement factory in Isparta, a province in southwest Turkey. Özemre had also asserted, in a written document and on several television news programs, that a flour factory in Konya had burned 800 tons of toxic waste on its site in order to generate energy.  He further noted that he would not have given credit to this anonymous tip about the nuclear waste cases in Isparta and Konya if he himself had not received a similar proposal from a German firm who offered him 40 million Deutsche Mark in return for burying 4,000 tons of radioactive waste while he served as the director of TAEK. Özemre asserted that when he did not accept the German firm’s proposal, stating that he “would not let Turkey turn into a nuclear landfill,” the firm told him that the toxic waste would be buried in Turkey one way or another.

A research commission was assigned by the Turkish Parliament to check into the claim that illegal nuclear waste was buried around Isparta and had been burned in Konya. The conclusion of the commission, published in the form of general meeting minutes in 1997, showed that the factory sites did not include radioactive elements.

Excerpt, Izmir Factory Scandal Causes Concern Over Nuclear Waste Elsewhere, http://www.haberler.com, Dec. 9, 2012

How to Dump Oil and Get Away with it

Up to 100 litres of oil has been dumped in a stream next to Long Bay marine reserve and authorities are struggling to trace the source. Auckland Council’s pollution response team was alerted on Sunday when residents noticed a sheen on the water’s surface.  Around 60 to 100 litres of waste oil was found, including some in the stormwater lines coming from the residential area on the southern side of Beach Rd.  Absorbent booms and a vacuum truck were used to collect the oil from the surface before it entered the marine reserve.  The booms will remain in place until the team is confident oil has stopped leaching into the stream.  Senior pollution response advisor Aaron Graham said any impact on the environment had been minimised.  “We have had paint and sediment discharges in the past year but this we think is most likely automotive oil,” he said.  “We did manage to maintain the majority of the oil, but there was some absorption into the environment like oil sticking to leaves and that sort of thing.  “With the size and nature of this spill there shouldn’t be any major impacts on the environment.”

Attempts to trace the oil through the stormwater system have been unsuccessful.  “Oil leaves a sheen on the water and so we look to trace this using maps of the stormwater lines and manholes,” Graham said.  “In this case we weren’t able to trace it as the oil had been washed through the drains because of the rain.”  Whoever is responsible could be fined and face prosecution.  Auckland Council warned that stormwater drains were for rain water only, not a dumping ground for other substances.

MARYKE PENMAN, Oil dumped near marine reserve, Auckland Now, Aug. 15, 2012