As the European Union moves to tighten waste shipment regulations, a coalition of non-governmental organizations have accused Germany of contravening the Waste Shipment Regulation and the Basel Convention in trying to ship plastic wastes from Turkey to Vietnam.
U.S.-based Basel Action Network (BAN) said that as part of efforts to prevent European wastes from being exported to developing nations, it managed to stop the shipment of the 37 containers by sending a warning letter to waste shipment authorities and representatives of COSCO Shipping in the Greek port of Piraeus.
The coalition had established that boxship Cosco Pride was to be loaded with 37 containers full of German plastic waste, which had originally been sent to Turkey but were now slated to be re-exported to Haiphong, Vietnam.
Through the protest letter, the coalition managed to block the shipment after the loading of the containers in Piraeus was stopped on request from Greek customs authorities.
“It is outrageous and unacceptable that German wastes can be diverted in this way when a direct export from Germany to Vietnam would be absolutely forbidden,” said Jim Puckett, BAN Executive Director.
He added that Germany should never have allowed the export of the wastes to Turkey in the first place and should have taken them back once Turkey asked. BAN said there are at least 80 more containers full of German plastic waste believed to be sitting in Turkey.
The controversy comes at a time when the EU is reviewing its waste shipment regulation to make it harder for member states to offload their trash into poorer countries. Two weeks ago, the European Commission said the bloc is proposing tougher regulations by ensuring that companies exporting waste outside the EU ensure that the facilities receiving the waste manage it in an environmentally sound manner.
In 2020, the EU exported around 33 million tonnes of waste to non-EU countries. Turkey happens to be the EU’s primary dumpsite, receiving 13.7 million tonnes of waste in 2020, followed by India, where 2.9 million tonnes of trash were dumped.
According to BAN, the plastic wastes that Germany wanted to export to Vietnam were sent from Germany to Turkey last year, but the importer lost its license to import waste after the Turkish government began to crack down on mixed and dirty plastic waste imports.
The Turkish authorities tried to get the German government to take the waste back, but the German government refused Turkish requests to repatriate the waste. The Turkish government then rebooked the containers for export to third countries – most prominently to Vietnam.
The environmental groups learned of the containers and traced them to the port of Piraeus, where they were awaiting an imminent departure. They also learned that another 16 rejected COSCO containers full of German plastic waste had already made their way from Turkey to Haiphong, Vietnam via Piraeus earlier this year.
“It is imperative that Germany take responsibility for the wastes they have been dumping in Turkey and now around the globe,” said Nihan Temiz Ata? of Greenpeace Mediterranean in Turkey.