The surge in the population is spiking the growth in our waste production. But instead of proper disposal and recycling, most of this waste is being dumped in the low-income countries and water. Illegal waste trafficking has long been on the radar of traffickers who have been illicitly dumping the trash into other countries.
How big is the problem? What are the consequences of illegal waste dumping? And how can it be tackled?
The Huge Garbage Dumps
Dumped garbage has increasingly become a typical sight across eastern European countries, especially Romania and Bulgaria. Even after having the second-lowest recycling rate amongst all the European Union countries, Romania is overflowing with heaps of waste that is begin trafficked into the country, illegally from abroad.
Less than 10% of both the countries Bulgaria and Romania’s national waste goes through the recycling process. The garbage that has to be recycled or appropriately treated is often disposed of or burnt in an open field, giving rise to a grave threat to health and the environment.
Recently, Emil Dimitrov, Bulgaria’s new environment minister, uncovered numerous illegal waste dumps. The companies responsible for recycling the trash fail to stand with their duties, leaving vast heaps of garbage pilled across the country. Over the last decade, the illegal waste dumping in Romania has increased by twentyfold. Many journalists unveiled waste being dumped simply under bridges and then set alight.
Though some wealthy European country officials believe that concrete waste management processes take care of the waste dumping, in reality, most of the waste is dumped without proper treatment. The official chain of waste disposals shows recycling consignments as the end destination of waste. Still, they instead land into field dumps or primary incineration sites, polluting the environment and deteriorating health on a monumental scale. Government in the worst-hit countries have to spend huge sums on cleaning up the waste every year to reduce its detrimental effects on health, air, and water.
The Illegal Waste Trafficking
Romania and Bulgaria face an overwhelming challenge, and to worsen the situation, the waste disposal business is under the control of shady figures. Though waste usually holds negative value, the companies producing them are legally obligated to treat it safely without harming the environment. However, to save their technology, resources, and money from the healthy waste management setups, several giant companies illegally dump their waste into countries with far fewer waste disposal standards.
Most of such companies are located in developed nations and licensed waste management firms. Though the waste usually travels abroad for complete recycling, it is termed illegal when it violates the Basel Convention; A law controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and determines its disposal or establishes the rules and regulations for exporting and importing jurisdictions. As one example, when importing countries are sent waste without their consent, or when hazardous materials are present in the waste without the knowledge of the responsible authorities.
Waste trafficking, still being a low-risk, high-profit crime, attracts many illegal traffickers. Thus, making illegal waste trafficking a multi-billion dollars transitional crime. In many instances, illegal traders succeed in dumping even toxic waste in this country via bribing the officials. Furthermore, The responsible investigating team is poorly paid and also faces intimidation from the illegal trafficking chains, benefiting the unscrupulous companies involved in trafficking.
Investigating illicit financial flows to determine who is behind criminal activities-systematically applying financial investigation techniques, also knowns as the follow-the-money approach, has tremendous potential to support current enforcement activities.
Unfortunately, there are not enough tools, capacity, or awareness for investigating financial crimes associated with waste trafficking, including corruption. Moreover, crimes committed against the environment are low on most countries’ lists of priorities for law enforcement.
Another initiative that the experts recommend is that environmental crime experts, customs agents, and financial investigators intensify their cooperation and interaction at local and international levels. Coupled with information-sharing regarding both strategy and tactics and the formation of dedicated teams or communication channels between the responsible authorities.
The Unacceptable Illegal Waste Dumping Crime
Effective anti-money laundering systems are needed to prevent crimes that are facilitated by corrupt practices, such as waste crimes and so many other crimes affecting the environment and human health. The trafficked mountains of waste disposed of illegally are flashing light on a different era of waste crime, which is now dwarfed by the cartel, mafia, corruption, bribery, and pollution of a scale never seen before—coupled with inaction and apparent indifference in the prosperous European state.