International trade in waste harms environment

18 April 2008

International trade in waste harms environment

SP member of Parliament Remi Poppe says that he finds the decision by Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer to allow Dutch reprocessing facilities to burn Italian waste "impossible to understand" when there is so little capacity to reprocess waste originating in the Netherlands itself. “Because the Italians are offering a higher price for incineration of waste, Dutch waste will end up in landfill. The environment is the loser and the minister is doing nothing about it," said Poppe during this week's debate on the issue.

Remi PoppeSince 1st January 2007, Dutch waste reprocessors have had the right to trade freely on the international market. A great deal of Dutch waste has, as a consequence, found its way to facilities in eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. On the other side of the equation, this also means that waste reprocessors have been accepting foreign household waste for treatment. Officially this waste is not to be incinerated at the cost of Dutch waste. Yet the Netherlands has a shortfall in reprocessing capacity of 3.5 megatonnes. In Poppe's view, this means that "the minister should not permit any import of burnable waste."

Despite this, major reprocessing plants have been scouring the market for lucrative deals. The firm AVR-Van Gansewinkel, for example, has been in negotiation in Naples regarding the reprocessing of the mountains of household waste which have been left to lie in the street as a result of the control of the trade by organised crime in the form of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. This criminality also resulted in inflated prices, which means, Poppe points out, that "AVR-Van Gansewinkel will be gaining, albeit indirectly, as a result of mafia practices, earning more for incinerating Italian waste than they would from burning our own waste. And because of this our own waste will go to landfill, which is much worse for the environment. History is repeating itself here. Just as in the past, waste is being shuffled about until it disappears into the market's lowest point, landfill."

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