Portugal blocks 3,600 tons of Italian rubbish – but gets left holding the tab

After the hue and cry (not to mention stink) generated by Portugal’s continued importation of ‘other countries’ rubbish’ (click here), the government has blocked a shipment of 3,600 tons of waste packed onto 144 containers in Italy.

The problem is that it made its decision a little too late: the containers, with their filthy cargo, are now berthed in the ports of Leixões and Sines with ‘nowhere to go’.

Under the terms of the agreement Portugal has since cancelled, the waste matter would have gone into Portuguese landfill.

It will now have to be ‘disposed of elsewhere’ – and the bill for the State (ergo taxpayers) could reach €2 million, suggests Observador.

Sources have told the online that ‘the Italians’ would only have been paying around €300,000 to see the rubbish buried in Portuguese landfill sites.

Where the waste mountain will end up is distinctly unclear. It may have to be incinerated on national territory (so saving the landfills . as per a government ruling in May but at least ‘dealing with the problem’ that has very few easy solutions).

Explains Observador, the ‘crisis’ of foreign rubbish came from the decision by China two years ago to suspend its imports of plastic waste.

All kinds of countries suddenly found ‘there was nowhere to go’.

Italy, particularly, labours under the added problem of what Observador calls ‘the intervention of organised crime’ which has led to a proliferation of illegal landfill sites that ‘don’t comply with safety or environmental standards’.

According to data from Interpol, since China closed its doors on imported waste matter, “various European countries have seen a significant increase in illegal deposits of waste” while there has also been ‘illegal exportation’ to destinations in southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia.

In short, waste matter has become a business worth thousands of millions of dollars, Europol ‘specialist’ José Alfaro Moreno told online Politico – while in this particular case it has just become a very bad-smelling expensive headache for the Portuguese government.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com