Global operation uncovers 1.5 million tonnes of illegal waste

More than 1.5 million tonnes of illegal waste was discovered during a month-long global operation that targeted the illegal shipment and disposal of waste.

Co-ordinated by INTERPOL’s Pollution Crime Working Group, the ‘30 days of action’, which took place in June, was the largest global enforcement action against waste crime and trafficking. Police, customs, border and environmental agencies from 43 countries particpated in the operation, which focussed on all types of illegal waste, such as industrial, construction, household and medical waste.  

Waste crime is a worldwide concern. INTERPOL states that of the 275 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in 2010, up to 12.7 million tonnes was illegally dumped into the ocean, and in 2014, only 10 to 40 per cent of electronic waste generated globally was disposed of through the proper channels. 

Illegal waste trafficking

The operation was initiated in response to a call from the global law enforcement community to gather more information about illegal waste streams between countries and regions. Joseph Poux, Deputy Chief, Environmental Crimes Section, US Department of Justice, and Chair of the Pollution Crime Working Group, said: “The ‘30 days of action’ was a great success. Besides being the largest global anti-pollution operation ever, it shows what can be accomplished when countries work together to detect, disrupt and deter pollution crime.

“INTERPOL and the countries and partners involved should be pleased with the results, while the organised criminal groups involved in illicit waste trafficking should be warned that they will be caught,” added Mr Poux.

The majority of illegal waste discovered during the operation was metal or electronic waste, generally related to the car industry. In total, 226 waste crimes were reported and 413 administrative violations. Criminal cases included 141 shipments carrying a total of 14,000 tonnes of illegal waste, as well as 85 sites where more than 1 million tonnes of waste was illegally disposed. Asia and Africa were the main destinations for waste illegally exported from Europe and North America, with trafficking also occurring between countries within Europe.

By facilitating co-operation between import and export countries, the operation also led to the identification of new transnational trafficking routes used by criminal networks. Investigators prevented 300 tonnes of hazardous waste being illegally transferred from Cyprus to Central America, with fraudulent documents and an intended transit route passing through multiple countries including Egypt, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and the US discovered.

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