Authorities in Brazil were indignant after discovering 1,400 tonnes of household waste had been imported into the country improperly labeled as recyclable plastic.
The UK’s Environment Agency said on Sunday that plans were being laid to bring back within weeks the 89 containers of trash that had allegedly been illegally exported.
It also said it had launched an investigation into the case to determine if an offense has been committed.
The waste included used baby diapers, syringes, condoms, batteries, food remains, used packages of cleaning products and cloth, showed Brazilian news reports and images taken during an inspection by Brazil’s state environmental agency, IBAMA.
However, the containers, which had been unloaded in three southern ports in Brazil, had been marked as containing only plastic for recycling.
“I’m surprised to learn that trash was improperly imported, with a false characterization, from Britain into Brazil,” IBAMA chief Roberto Messias Franco said in a statement on Friday. “Brazil is not the world’s dump.”
Several British companies were said to have been involved.
Two of them were named by British and Brazilian authorities as Worldwide Biorecyclables and UK Multiplas Recycling, both based in the British town of Swindon.
The owner of those two firms, Julio Cesar Rando da Costa, a Brazilian with a Portuguese passport living in Swindon, told BBC Brazil on Friday that the blame lay with his British supplier, not with his companies.
“I have a contract with a British waste supplier in which it’s written that it’s only plastic that they should pass on,” he said. “It’s people at home who throw away stuff in the recycling bins here in Britain. Somebody might throw away something that their workers [at the supplier’s] didn’t see.”
Costa also confirmed that his Brazilian workers in Swindon wrote a note found on used toys in one of the containers that read: “Wash before giving to poor Brazilian children.”
BBC Brazil said Worldwide Biorecyclables had gone bust and Costa had subsequently created UK Multiplas Recycling at the same location.