Swedish waste exports contain dangerous materials

An industrial garbage truck. (iStock)
An industrial garbage truck. (iStock)
Illegal exports of waste from Europe, including Sweden, is drastically rising. About half of it heading to West Africa.

The illegal waste can contain anything from televisions to refrigerators with CFCs, anything classified as dangerous waste because it contains materials harmful to the environment, according to Jürgen Braun, from German police, in conversation with Swedish Radio News.

There is a serious risk of environmental poisoning to both the local population where the waste ends up and to the larger surrounding area. But it can have even global consequences if the waste is burned improperly.

During 2013, there were 97 transporters stopped containing primarily Swedish waste on their way out of Sweden, or having already left, according to Swedish News agency TT.

Most of the transporters are probably ordinary companies unaware of the laws, or choosing to ignore them. What they see is the possibility to make money on something they would have otherwise thrown away. They make money from the extraction of things like gold or copper in the waste items. However, Braun says this brings with it serious consequences.

“In Ghana and Nigeria teenagers burn televisions and refrigerators in garbage bins in order to get out metals that can be reused. It is risky for those who do the work and also for the environment. Those dangerous substances in the scrap leak out into the air and groundwater, so it is a very serious situation for the environment and the people of Africa,” Braun told Swedish Radio News.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  “Dumpcano” costs mounting in Canada’s eastern Arctic, Radio Canada International

Greenland: Study finds increase in litter on Arctic seafloor, Blog by Mia Bennett

Russia:  Submariners feed polar bears with garbage, Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden tackles plastic bag problem, Radio Sweden

United States: Tsunami of trash looms for Alaska beaches, Alaska Dispatch News

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