Stockholm/Amsterdam, 27th November 2000: A ship containing 3700 tons of waste from the Netherlands
was today stopped by over 50 Greenpeace activists just before docking in the port of Soedertaelje, 40 km south of Stockholm, Sweden. The ship RMS Aries was transporting the waste to the waste incinerator
Igelstaverken in Soedertaelje when activists blocked its path by unfurling a banner saying “Sweden is not your waste dump!” under a high railroad bridge.
The Greenpeace ship MV Greenpeace also came to the site to reinforce the blockade. Greenpeace is demanding that RMS Aries returns with the waste to the Netherlands and that the Swedish government stops further imports of waste for incineration. The persistent pollutant dioxin is released into the environment when waste is incinerated. Dioxin is, arguably, one of the most dangerous chemicals on earth and causes cancers in humans.
“Sweden is not a dumping ground for waste from other countries,” said Gunnar Lind of Greenpeace in Sweden. “Free waste trade within the EU makes it difficult to control waste streams and to prevent the mixing of waste, which could be recycled or reused. If countries are allowed to evade their own waste problems by exporting them there will be no incentive to reduce, reuse or recycle waste,” he added.
The Dutch waste is a type called RDF and consists of crushed plastics, paper, textiles and wood. An analysis of the content shows high levels of certain heavy metals, i.e. copper, lead and mercury (1). The origin of these contaminants is difficult to assess as, when mixed, individual items of waste can no longer be tracked down.
“The export of combustible waste from the Netherlands has doubled every year over the last four years. The export of mixed, combustible waste for incineration undermines the possibility of recycling the materials,” said Eco Matser of Greenpeace Netherlands.
Imports of waste for incineration in Sweden have increased dramatically in the last five years. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 53 000 tons were imported in 1996. In 1998, the import increased to 110 000 tons. Since December 1999, Swedish waste companies have applied to import over 339 000 tons. Additionally, substantial amounts of waste are imported that do not have to be registered.
“Swedish waste companies actually want the waste since they can sell the heat from the plants to the district heating systems. They are making lots of money by burning foreign waste,” added Lind.
The scale of imported waste to Sweden is also explained by the fact that waste incineration is very inexpensive there. According to the European Environment Agency, Sweden is, together with Spain, the most inexpensive country to burn waste in. The average cost of incineration in Europe is twice as high as in Sweden while incineration in Germany and the Netherlands costs three times as much.
World governments are meeting in South Africa next week to finalise an international, legally binding treaty to ban dioxins and other persistent pollutants (2).
Contacts: Gunnar Lind, on board the MV Greenpeace: +46 70 397 66 73 Eco Matser, Netherlands, +31 20 524 9559 or +31 6 212 969 19 (1) Research results are available on www.greenpeace.org/~toxics (2) The fifth and final Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Persistent Organic Pollutants will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 4th – 9th December 2000. The treaty is scheduled for adoption in Stockholm, May 2001.
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