According to officials, Sri Lanka has started shipping 242 containers of hazardous waste, including body parts from mortuaries, back to the UK after a two-year court battle by an environmental watchdog.

The first 20 containers of medical waste, including body parts, were loaded last week and another 65 will be sent this week, according to Sri Lankan customs. A week prior, Sri Lanka’s court of appeals ordered the repatriation of the bio-waste and plastic waste imported in violation of local and international shipping regulations, as well as the BASEL Convention. The imports arrived between September 2017 and January 2018 and the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) had petitioned courts to get it rejected. 

The petition included such issues as severe damage to the environment and biodiversity and threats to the health of the general public. The application also said that the waste was imported without adhering to the terms of the BASEL Convention, according to which Sri Lanka has restricted the import of hazardous waste. 

What’s Happening Now?

The Basel Convention is an international treaty, signed in 1989, designed to prevent the movement of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries.

In September, more than 280 tons of waste in another 21 countries were sent back after the UK agreed to take it back. 

Besides Sri Lanka, several other Asian countries have in recent years started pushing back against a tide of waste coming from wealthier countries and have started turning away shipments of garbage. The region, including Sri Lanka, has been flooded with plastic waste from more developed economies such as the US and UK since 2018, after China ordered a halt to most imports.

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In January, Malaysia sent back 150 shipping containers of plastic waste to mostly wealthier nations saying that it would not be the world’s “garbage dump.” In May 2019, the Philippines shipped 69 containers back to Canada following a long-running dispute.