Holland accepts controversial waste shipment

Activists express shock over plan to import Taiwanese waste for incineration

Environmental activists today revealed that the Dutch government had granted an import licence for some 9,000 tonnes of Taiwanese industrial waste that caused an international outcry when it was dumped in Cambodia in 1998. Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network (BAN), which monitors implementation of the international Basel convention on transboundary hazardous waste shipments, declared themselves shocked by the news.

The waste was produced by Taiwanese chemical firm Formosa Plastic Corporation (FCP) as a by-product of caustic soda manufacture and is tainted with mercury. It was first landfilled in Taiwan in 1993 but the firm was forced to remove it again. It was shipped to Cambodia in late 1998, where it was implicated in the deaths of two people. Several others died when news spread of the first deaths, sparking an exodus of 10,000 people and riots. FPC was forced to take the waste back again.

During 1999, the company made several fruitless efforts to export the waste for treatment, all of which were staunchly opposed by BAN and an international network of NGOs. Countries seen as potential recipients during the year included the USA, France and Germany. The Netherlands is the first country to accept the waste, according to BAN.

"We are shocked that the Dutch government has granted a licence to import mercury tainted waste...for incineration when the rest of the world has refused to take part in this toxic shell game," the group said today. It added that 32 containers had been shipped to the Netherlands secretly in December, while around 300 shipping containers remained in Taiwan.

Follow Up:
BAN, tel: +1 206 720 6426; Greenpeace, tel: +31 20 523 6222.

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