Interpol seizes more than 1.5M metric tons of illegal waste in 30-day operation
- Interpol, an international police organization, discovered more than 1.5 million metric tons of illegal waste in a 30-day worldwide operation targeting illegal waste shipping and disposal, according to a press release from the agency. 43 countries participated in the operation.
- Interpol reported 226 waste crimes and 413 administrative violations. According to the agency, 326 individuals and 244 companies were involved in criminal or administrative violations. Criminal cases included 141 shipments with a total of 14,000 metric tons of illegal waste, and 85 sites where more than 1 million metric tons of waste had been illegally dumped.
- The operation widened the scope of previous Interpol operations, which focused on e-waste. The majority of the waste discovered was metal or electronic waste connected to the automotive industry, according to Interpol.
InterpoI noted that the overall scope of its "30 days of action" included industrial, construction, household and medical waste. Additionally, the agency said the operation came in response to a call to gather information about illegal waste streams flowing between countries. These specifications could be a signal that similar operations could continue on an international scale.
According to the findings of the month-long operation, Asia and Africa were the "main destinations" for waste coming out of North America and Europe, though Interpol did not specify which countries. With China's pending scrap import ban, the country may become a target for operators in the illegal waste trade — especially given the fact that the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) expects the import ban could expand to include more valuable scrap like mixed metals. China, however, has already been harsh on scrap imports, so this recent international crackdown may encourage China to be even more stringent.
Interestingly, Interpol's operation also discovered "criminal networks" in Central America that were involved with waste crime. This included, according to the agency, a shipment of 300 metric tons of hazardous waste that, while stopped in Cyprus, was intended to travel through Egypt, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and the U.S. before reaching its final destination in Central America. It's an unexpected finding, given Central America's miniscule role in importing waste material.
China's "National Sword" policy is well-known and the European Union has named disrupting trafficking of illicit waste as one of its priorities for stopping organized crime. Waste shipping is a global game, and it seems governments and international organizations are starting to give more thought and energy to regulating how it's handled.
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