Portugal importing more and more hazardous waste for ‘processing’
Portugal processes around 520,000 tonnes of hazardous waste per year, most of it imported from other EU countries.
Continuing its traditional role as a dumping ground for European waste products, Portugal imported significantly more waste last year than the year before, and handled effluent sludge, generally containing heavy metals, combustion residues, incineration plant ash, chemical waste, urban waste such as batteries, electrical goods such as air conditioners and refrigerators, thermometers and light bulbs.
Portugal is receiving more and more hazardous waste to treat and is exporting less, as its plant capacity to deal with the problem has increased.
Portugal is ‘taking advantage of installed capacity,” according to the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Over the past three years, “there has been a trans-boundary movement of waste (import) that has promoted more entry into the national infrastructure, than in the past,” waffled Carlos Martins.
The fact that Portugal has a waste disposal infrastructure that is recognised as ‘good,’ “could lead countries that do not have this option, to send waste for recovery or disposal,” continued Martins, seemingly delighted that Portugal is importing European waste, much of which ends up in landfill.
Martins pointed out “a significant growth in 2016” with countries sending hazardous waste to be treated in Portugal for recycling or, what he calls, ‘elimination.’ In 2015 there were 13 different European Union exporters of hazardous waste to Portugal, in 2016 that number was reduced and only two or three of them accounted for more than 80% of the waste shipped.
The country that has sent the most waste to Portugal between 2015 and 2016 was Italy, which had built up piles of unsorted domestic rubbish.
The government intends to release a report on hazardous waste, in the first half of December 2017, but the draft concludes that “the capacity still available in existing facilities allows us to face the future without any problem.”
Regarding the export of hazardous waste, this should decline as Portugal has CIRVER Centres (Integrated Recovery, Valorisation and Disposal of Hazardous Waste Centers) which have reduced the amount of waste that used to be shipped off for treatment.
In recent years, “our installed capacity allows us almost to treat the vast majority of what we produce, in other words, Portugal is, from this point of view, a self-sufficient country complying with European legislation,” said a delighted Secretary of State for the Environment.
It is only in “very specific” cases that dangerous waste is exported, especially when Portugal lacks the technologies to treat it. The trans-boundary movement (export) “is perhaps 10% and there is has been a systematic reduction since 2013,” summarised Martins.
The total amount of hazardous waste in Portugal, is “around 520,000 tonnes per year for regular treatment, and about 300,000 to 320,000 tonnes are sent to the two CIRVER Centres.” The fate of the resulting balance was not dilvulged but landfill seems the logical answer.
In December 2016, it was revealed that the importer of Italian rubbish was a company owned by a former Secretary of State for the Environment, Dr Pedro Afonso de Paulo who also sits on the council of AEPSA, the Association of Portuguese Environmental Companies.
Portugal’s environmental organisation,