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Container load of more than 200 tonnes of polluting waste destined for Africa seized in Spain

Christian Fernsby |
The waste, whose final destination was African countries, has been seized in the port of Algeciras, Spain where it arrived in sea containers.

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The Risk Analysis Unit (UAR) of the Customs of Algeciras, composed of officials from the Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency and civil guards, in collaboration with the team of the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) of the Command of Algeciras, has intervened, in the framework of the operation 'Boukali', more than 200 tonnes of highly polluting waste that arrived at the port of Algeciras through maritime containers.

The investigations began in May 2021, when the agents detected the existence of an organisation that was using export routes from the national territory and the rest of the European continent to African countries, to transport large quantities of undecontaminated waste inside maritime containers, posing a serious risk to the environment.

The organisation bought high-value waste, such as truck and car engines, compressors for household appliances, used electronic equipment and other industrial parts that were not subjected to the relevant decontamination process required by current legislation, from recycling centres or scrapyards.

Once they had collected enough waste, they loaded it into a container until its full capacity was reached, in some cases even exceeding the maximum loading capacity, which posed a risk to the container ships themselves. 33 tonnes of waste have been collected in a single container.

Once the waste was loaded, the containers were transported by container ships to African countries;specifically Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana and Mauritania.In these countries it is common for waste to be handled by unprotected workers.

They also use uncontrolled burning to extract the materials of interest, releasing all kinds of polluting fumes and gases into the atmosphere.

These shipments failed to comply with a wide range of EU and national regulations on waste treatment and the environment, failing to attach any documentation or sometimes providing invalid decontamination certificates, while at the same time posing a serious risk to the environment, with spills of highly polluting substances such as industrial oils or leaking refrigerant gases.

With regard to the material seized, 588 butane and propane cylinders belonging to fuel retailers who had reported them stolen were recovered, and the suspects were charged with the alleged offence of receiving stolen goods.

The waste also included a multitude of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) parts, containers of refrigerant gases and hazardous substances that contribute to ozone depletion and global warming, as well as being harmful to human health if not properly managed and treated.In addition, five vehicles prepared for export were seized in breach of the recent Royal Decree 265/2021 on end-of-life vehicles.

The total amount of polluting waste seized during the operation exceeded 200 tonnes.

In view of the above, seven persons were investigated, three of Guinean nationality, two of Senegalese nationality, one of Nigerian nationality and one of Spanish nationality.

All of the seized material has been placed at the disposal of the judicial authorities so that it can be handed over to a CAT (Authorised Treatment Centre) for appropriate management and decontamination.


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