ECONOMY

Brussels cracks down on shipment of toxic waste after a series of incidents

BRUSSELS – The European Union introduced new rules on the shipment of toxic waste yesterday, seeking to halt the illegal dumping of hazardous materials in developing countries. The regulations, which went into effect yesterday, come after a series of incidents involving ships, including the release of toxic waste from Spain into the Mediterranean after a ship, the Ulla, sank in a Turkish port in 2004. Last year, the Dutch-chartered ship Probo Koala dumped toxic chemical slops near Ivory Coast, leading to 16 deaths and tens of thousands of sick people who suffered vomiting, diarrhea and breathing difficulties after inhaling fumes from the waste. «We must make sure that tragic accidents, such as last year’s dumping of dangerous waste in the Ivory Coast, never happen again,» Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said. «This is why we must have strong and efficient measures at EU level to prevent illegal shipments of waste and to ensure that when waste is shipped for treatment outside the EU, this treatment does not damage the environment.» The rules, which update a regulation from 1993, require EU governments to carry out inspections and spot checks of ships in their territory. They also give governments the right to open up containers to check their contents. EU nations are already bound by commitments on movements of waste under the United Nations Basel Convention and rules that forbid ships carrying hazardous waste from transferring that material outside OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. The new regulation also lays out rules for shipments within the 27-country bloc, including requirements for detailed information to accompany cargo with hazardous waste. It bans the export of hazardous waste from the EU to developing countries and exports for waste disposal outside the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. «The ban will thus be applied as a means to prevent large amounts of electronic and electric waste and end-of-life vehicles being shipped to and dumped in developing countries,» the Commission said in a statement. The EU is looking at establishing criminal sanctions against companies that flout environmental rules, another way to crack down on such illegal shipments, it said.