Portugal accused of being “dumping ground” for foreign rubbish

Reports in the international press about Portugal being a dumping ground for foreign rubbish – much of it toxic – have now been picked up by national media which claims today that Portugal is “the trash can of Europe”.

The story started last week with outlets like Reuters and the New York Times highlighting issues in the village of Sobrado (in the northern borough of Valongo) where stench from the landfill taking in “amber list foreign trash” has forced locals to consider a lawsuit against the environment ministry.

Outrage centres on the fact that Portugal’s ‘fees’ for receiving waste matter – “including construction products containing asbestos” – are minuscule compared to the European average.

The country was accepting rubbish at €9.90 per tonne last year, compared to charges elsewhere of between €80-€100 per tonne.

2020’s prices have increased, but only to €11 per tonne, reports TVI24.

In other words, Portugal has set itself up as “the destination” for countries that don’t want to be bothered with their own waste.

The NYT – in a report headlined “Not in Our Backyard: Portuguese villagers raise a stink over Trash Landfill” – suggests the situation could rapidly descend into a major problem for public health.

Environmental group Jornada Principal – which wants Sobrado landfill shut down – describes a plague of insects that has already caused many locals to seek medical help.

Says the group’s president Marisol Marques the stink has “reached the point of causing people to vomit” and keep their windows closed 24/7.

“Children say they don’t want to go to school because they feel ill”, she told TVI24.

Says the station, Sobrado is one of 11 landfills licensed to receive foreign trash.

“The smells aren’t sporadic”, stressed Marisol Marques. They are constant to the extent that nothing is spared: not even household washing drying on people’s lines.

Says the NYT: “This all comes as a directive from Brussels requires European Union member states to reduce landfilling by 2035 to a maximum of 10% of the total waste produced by a municipality”.

Faced with Brussels’ ‘pressure’, the government has ordered environmental agency APA “to make it harder for waste shipments to be allowed into Portugal” (click here) – but fears are that the move is too little, too late.

Says Carmen Lima of Portugal’s oldest environmental NGO Quercus much of the trash already imported for landfill here could have been recycled in its country of origin if Portugal’s rates hadn’t been so ‘appealing’,

Meantime, the situation is seeing landfills that should have lasted 10-15 years start filling up within five, prompting authorities to look at other locations for new dumps “because they are running out of space”.