Brazil's environmental authorities reacted with outrage after the discovery of contaminated household waste in a shipment from Germany. The cargo was falsely declared as legitimate goods for recycling.
Hamburg is Europe's second busiest port
22 tonnes of refuse illegally shipped from the north German port of Hamburg to Brazil is returning to Germany.
Brazilian officials seized the cargo after it arrived in the southern port of Rio Grande last week. The shipment was documented as plastics from the Czech Republic, to be recycled and sold in South America.
Officials instead found household waste, used diapers, residues of cleaning products and "every kind of contaminated refuse," Brazil's Institute of Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) said.
The environmental authority fined the South Korean cargo firm Hanjin Shipping around 664,000 euros (1.5 million Brazilian reals or $855,000) and docked the Brazilian waste disposal plant Recoplast 177,000 euros. The export from Germany was handled by Hong Kong company Dashan.
Brazil had given a ten-day deadline, counting from the refuse's arrival in Rio Grande on August 13, for the cargo to be shipped back to Germany.
Brazil used as "landfill site"
IBAMA President Abelardo Bayma stressed that the shipment violated the Basel Convention of 1988, which aims to reduce the transportation of hazardous waste between nations, particularly from developed to less developed countries. "The violation of an international agreement is an affront to the signature states and in this particular case showed contempt for Brazil and Brazilian society," Bayma said.
Rubbish disposal is a growing problem in many countries
Household waste forms a minimal part of the cargo shipped from Hamburg. The movement of potentially contaminated materials is subject to the German Regulation on the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Sea.
Hamburg port authorities, now preparing for the return of the cargo, insist they knew nothing about the illegal refuse. "We check whether the documents are in order and inspect the cargo only if we have indications of any irregularities," a spokesman for Hamburg customs said. The shipment was declared as industrial polyethylene plastic.
Brazilian authorities discovered illegal waste from Britain in 2009, after which Brazil was labeled as Europe's "landfill site."
Author: Thomas Sheldrick (dpa/apn)
Editor: Susan Houlton