Bio-waste, body parts from mortuaries: Sri Lanka returns 3,000 tonnes of waste to UK

Sri Lanka shipped the last of several hundred containers full of thousands of tonnes of illegally imported waste to Britain on Monday, officials said.

In recent years, several Asian countries have fended off an onslaught of trash from wealthier countries and have begun to turn back unwanted shipments.

The UK waste arrived in Sri Lanka between 2017 and 2019 and was listed as “used mattresses, rugs and carpets”.

But in reality, it also contained bio-waste from hospitals, including body parts from morgues, according to customs officials.

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The containers were not refrigerated and some of them gave off a strong stench.

The 45 containers loaded onto a ship at a port in Colombo on Monday were the last batch of 263 containers containing around 3,000 tonnes of waste.

“There may be new attempts to import these dangerous goods, but we will be vigilant and ensure that this does not happen again,” said customs chief Vijitha Ravipriya.

The first 21 containers of medical waste were returned to Britain in September 2020, according to customs.

A local company had imported the waste from Britain, saying it planned to salvage the springs from used mattresses along with the cotton for re-shipment to manufacturers overseas.

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But Customs did not find credible evidence of such “recovery of resources”.

A local group of environmental activists filed a petition demanding that the waste be returned to sender and the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal upheld the petition in 2020.

Customs maintained that all the containers had been brought into the country in violation of international law governing the transport of hazardous waste, including plastics.

A Sri Lankan investigation in 2019 found that the importer re-shipped around 180 tonnes of waste brought to the island to India and Dubai in 2017 and 2018.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have also returned hundreds of waste containers to their home countries.

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