Sri Lanka Rejects Contaminated UK Waste

In May, more than 100 shipping containers filled with waste from the United Kingdom (UK) arrived at the port city of Colombo, Sri Lanka. ELAW partners at the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) are fighting to have the waste sent back to the UK and hold polluters accountable. A report from The Guardian says the leaking containers have an unbearable stench and may contain human remains.
“This is a major public health risk,” says Hemantha Withanage, CEJ Executive Director, adding, “Sri Lanka is not a dump for international waste.”
The containers reportedly are filled with used mattresses, carpets, contaminated hospital waste, and more. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) discovered another 130 containers had been unloaded in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone near Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport. Of those, 29 containers of recovered metal springs and cushions had already been exported to India and Dubai.
ELAW’s legal team worked with Hemantha and provided model laws and policies from around the world that forbids international waste dumping.
CEJ filed suit at the Court of Appeal to halt transport of the containers within Sri Lanka, other than for purposes of re-export to their origin in the UK. During the court hearing, it was revealed that more than 1,000 additional containers were abandoned at Colombo Harbor, with no one claiming ownership. The Sri Lanka Customs suspects that these contain similar waste.
The Court of Appeal has ordered a government analyst to examine the containers and report findings to the court. The waste importers must facilitate access to the relevant sites and open the shipping containers.
“This court order is an important step in our fight for justice,” says Hemantha, who notes that both the CEA and the Sri Lanka Customs will soon file legal actions against the violators.
For more information, see:
The Guardian, July 25, 2019
Sri Lanka finds hazardous waste in UK metal recycling cargo

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide