Syndicate unlawfully dumps containers of waste in SA
The areas most affected with undetected unlawful waste were disposal sites in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town.
Thousands of plastic bottles and other pieces of plastic litter line the coastline south of Durban after a recent storm. Photo: Lisa Guastella.
An unlawful waste dumping syndicate has plagued this country and European countries, including Spain, illegally dumping containers of plastic waste here.
The department of environmental affairs’ Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI), also known as the Green Scorpions, was challenged with importers not following legal procedures to declare the dumping. Most of the illegal waste was plastic scrap and oil contaminated soil.
But the EMI managed to repatriate the waste, which was a risk to the environment, said Grant Walters, the department’s director of waste and pollution enforcement.
“About 70 000 containers of waste was exported from the United Kingdom over the last year and no one knows where it has gone to. “We suspect it is gone to Asia.
“But these guys are cunning when declaring waste as it is not reported as waste or plastic, but rather Styrofoam and polyethylene,” Walters said.
The areas most affected with undetected unlawful waste were disposal sites in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town. But the Green Scorpions managed to detect 220 containers in KZN, while interventions from the South African Revenue Service recovered R2.5 million that would have been lost to the state.
Out of 529 inspections, there was a 10% ratio in terms of environmental crimes. But lawful waste, imported from neighbouring countries, goes to landfills.
“During the criminal investigation, we ensure we get to punishment and not just monetary compensation which goes to the fiscus – but it is also a clean-up operation,” said Walters. The main culprits, however, were European countries, with the department and Interpol collaborating.
The department’s legal authorisation, compliance and enforcement director, Ishaam Abader, said Interpol claimed there was a lot of waste from European countries to Africa. “That is one of the areas Interpol will look at.”