Sweden says no to contaminated soil export

Proximity principle invoked to prevent trade as part of drive to build up national waste treatment capacity

The Swedish authorities have refused permission for a batch of contaminated soil to be sent for treatment in the Netherlands, in what they say is an important test case for their new national waste management strategy. The Netherlands had a greater competence in relevant waste handling techniques, an environmental protection agency official told ENDS Daily, but a suitable plant existed in Sweden, and it was important to build up national capacity and expertise in dealing with such consignments. Waste company Ragnsell Specialavfall had wanted to ship 5,000 tonnes of soil contaminated with pentachlorophenol, dioxins and heavy metals from the site of an old sawmill at Karlstad for incineration by Dutch firm Ecotechniek, after which it would be used in road construction. The Swedish environmental protection agency ruled, however, that this should be regarded as a disposal activity, and therefore made subject to the proximity principle. Under Sweden's national waste management strategy approved earlier this year, this requires waste to be disposed of within the country whenever possible. Were this to have been classified as a recovery operation, it would have been subject to a European Court of Justice ruling from last summer limiting countries' rights to restrict transboundary waste shipments (ENDS Daily 26 June 1998).

Follow Up:
Swedish EPA, tel: +46 8 698 1000.

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