Victim of receiving unwanted shipments from wealthier nations, Sri Lanka-retaliating like many Asian nations, sends back the last several hundred containers filled with thousands of tonnes of illegally imported waste to Britain on Monday.
Listed as “used mattresses, carpets, and rugs”, the containers filled with biowaste from hospitals including body parts from mortuaries first arrived from Britain in Sri Lanka between 2017 and 2019, customs officials informed adding that the containers were not chilled and some of them gave off a powerful stench.
Loaded on Monday at the Colombo Port, the 45 containers were the final batch of 263 containers holding around 3,000 tonnes of waste.
“There could be fresh attempts to import such hazardous cargo, but we will be vigilant and ensure that this does not happen again,” customs chief Vijitha Ravipriya said.
As per customs, the first 21 containers holding medical waste were returned to Britain in September 2020.
A local company from Britain imported the waste claiming that the shipments are to recover the springs from used mattresses as well as cotton to be reshipped to manufacturers abroad. However, the customs found no credible evidence of such “resource recovery”.
A local environmental activist group in Sri Lanka filed a petition against the move and asked the waste be returned to its sender. The petition was upheld by Sri Lanka’s Court in 2020.
All the containers were brought in the nation in violation of international law governing the shipment of hazardous waste, including plastics.
As per a Sri Lankan investigation in 2019 the importer had reshipped about 180 tonnes of waste brought into the island to India and Dubai in 2017 and 2018.
The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have also returned hundreds of containers of refuse to their countries of origin.