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Sri Lanka sends 21 containers of “hazardous hospital waste” back to Britain

Sri Lanka has returned 21 containers of up to 260 tonnes of waste, back to Britain after officials say the waste was brought onto the island in violation of international laws governing the shipping of hazardous material.

The containers which were supposed to carry used mattresses carpets and rugs, contained mostly hospital waste, plastic and polythene.

Officials have not revealed what type of hospital waste, but previously illegally imported containers included rags, bandages and body parts from mortuaries.

The 21 containers first arrived by ship to Colombo’s main port in 2017 and departed Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Sunil Jayarante, customs spokesperson, stated “we are working to secure compensation from those responsible for getting the containers into the country”. The government is also currently engaged in legal action against the shipper to have another 242 containers removed from the country.

Environmental concerns

Environmentalists have expressed serious concerns over the containers, which they say pose a major risk to public health, groundwater and surface water.

“It has been recorded continuously that [there are cases] of water-borne diseases, skin diseases and respiratory diseases because of these garbage dumps,” stated Suranjan Kodithuwakku, the chairman of the Green Movement of Sri Lanka.

Avishka Sendanayake, a consultant on climate change and sustainability in Sri Lanka stated, “we are still struggling to deal with waste within the country; there is no way we can deal with the waste coming in from another country.”

Last year, as concerns over the waste were revealed protestors, including at least one Buddhist monk, gathered outside the British High Commission in Colombo with signs in Sinhalese and English denouncing the UK for reportedly allowing the waste to be transported.

“UK is polluting world’s No. 1 travel destination,” read one sign.

See more from the BBC here, The Guardian here and Al Jazeera here.

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