Illegal trash exports from Sweden put Africa at risk

The illegal export of Swedes' discarded washers, televisions, and other waste has police scrambling to prevent what is becoming a growing environmental problem for west African countries.

So far this year, around 20 shipments have been stopped and a Swedish court recently convicted several people for attempting to transport 200 old refrigerators out of the country.

In the last three years, authorities have halted around 60 different shipments from Sweden carrying nearly 900 tonnes of waste.

Most of the shipments consist of large 12-metre long containers filled with old car parts, discarded computers, refrigerators, printers, televisions, and other electronic waste.

The shipments are generally destined for countries in western Africa.

“There are all kinds of ways to earn money doing this,” Henrik Forssblad, an environmental crimes specialist with the National Swedish Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen).

In destination countries, parts from an old refrigerator can be retooled, resulting in a working product which can then be resold and automobile scrap can be resold as spare parts.

The simple methods used in the retooling process can often result in the release of dangerous chemicals like lead and dioxins which can harm both people and the environment.

Unscrupulous companies in Sweden often end up profiting from the illegal export of discarded appliances and other waste.

“It costs companies money to properly dispose of a refrigerator. That’s something you avoid if you export it illegally and earn some money in the destination country,” said Forssblad.

“If you have a lot of fridges, you fill a container and that can save you a bundle.”

TT/The Local/dl

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