Greenpeace Demands immediate return of German plastic waste


Greenpeace, Basel Action Network (BAN), Zero Waste Europe and other organizations are calling for illegally exported waste to be returned to Germany. On December 2, the environmental groups prevented 37 containers with German plastic waste from being loaded in the port of Piraeus (Greece), and the customs authorities there confiscated the containers.  In a letter to the new Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen) they have called for these and other containers now sitting in Turkey and exported to other countries to be returned to Germany immediately.

At last 114 container loads of plastic wastes were exported to Turkey for recycling about a year ago but were rejected by the Turkish government as being illegal to import.  The Turkish Ministry of the Environment asked German authorities to take back the wastes as early as May but, according to their own statement, found no support from the responsible authorities in the German federal states. Following this lack of support from Germany, Turkey has released the plastic waste for export to third countries. According to information from Greenpeace and BAN,16 containers already made their way to Vietnam, while others were tracked to Croatia, the UK and USA. 37 containers were also to be shipped to Vietnam on board the cargo ship “COSCO PRIDE”.   However shortly before loading, Greenpeace and BAN alerted Greek customs, who then seized the cargo just as it was being loaded on the ship in Piraeus, Greece.

“The plastic waste has to be disposed of properly in Germany and should never even have been allowed to go to Turkey,” said Manfred Santen from Greenpeace Germany. “This waste dumping madness must come to an end.  And, now it is imperative to urgently call back the German trash before it is loaded on any more ships to be distributed further around the world. Germany must take responsibility for its own waste” Germany obliged to take them back under an international law

According to the Basel Convention (Article 8) which regulates the cross-border transport of waste internationally, and the European Waste Shipment Regulation (Articles 22 and 23) implementing this treaty, the exporting states are clearly obliged to reimport illegal shipments or shipments that cannot be completed by the terms of the contract.  In this case Turkey had concluded that the imports were not allowed due to the high level of contamination and certainly the contract could not be completed.

The law is very clear,” says Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, based in Seattle, USA. “Germany should have recalled these deliveries within 30 days of notification by Turkey. It is regrettable that the German authorities failed to do so. The new environment minister can now correct this serious mistake and order the containers back at once.”

The exports are seen as not only immoral but out of step with aspirations and intentions of the European Union whose officials in Brussels have proposed to strengthen the Waste Shipment Regulation to prevent many more exports of mixed and contaminated wastes under the name of recycling.

Both from a moral and a legal perspective, this is not acceptable. The law is clear and the recent European’s ambitions to finally take responsibility for its own waste, are even clearer,” said Pierre Condamine of Zero Waste Europe.  “Germany must repatriate their waste immediately.”