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Environmental groups block the export of German plastic waste to Vietnam

A container ship travelling on the ocean
Container ship COSCO PRIDE, which arrived in Piraeus early the morning of November 30. It was to be loaded on December 1 with 37 containers of German Plastic Waste for Vietnam. This re-export was blocked following a warning by environmental groups.

Waste shipment authorities and COSCO shipping lines responded swiftly to a letter sent to them in the Greek port of Piraeus by the Basel Action Network (BAN) as part of a coalition effort to prevent European wastes from being exported.

The groups had learned that the ship COSCO PRIDE was to be loaded with 37 containers full of German plastic waste that were originally sent to Turkey but were now slated to be re-exported to Haiphong, Vietnam. It has now been confirmed that the containers have been blocked and will not be sailing to Asia.

According to the Greek office of the COSCO company, the loading of the 37 containers in Piraeus has been stopped on request from Greek custom authorities following the warning letter.

The wastes were sent from Germany to Turkey last year but the importer lost its license to import waste to after the Turkish government begin to crack down on mixed and dirty plastic waste imports. The Turkish authorities tried to get the German government to take the waste back, but the German government refused Turkish requests to repatriate the waste. The Turkish government then rebooked the containers for export to third countries, most prominently to Vietnam. 

The environmental groups claim the shipments are illegal based on the Waste Shipment Regulation (Article 22) and the Basel Convention (Article 8) rules that require exporting countries to repatriate and take responsibility for wastes they export when the shipment cannot be completed according to the contract. 

"It is outrageous and unacceptable that German wastes can be diverted in this way when a direct export from Germany to Vietnam would be absolutely forbidden," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network. "Germany should never have allowed the export of these wastes to Turkey in the first place. Second, they should have absolutely taken them back once Turkey asked them to. We are calling on them to do so now."

There are at least 80 more containers full of German plastic waste now believed to be sitting in Turkey from the COSCO, Sealand, MSC, Maersk and Hamburg Sud shipping lines.

"It is imperative that Germany take responsibility for the wastes they have been dumping in Turkey and now around the globe," said Nihan Temiz Ataş of Greenpeace Mediterranean in Turkey. "If the EU is really serious as they have indicated recently in their Green New Deal, about not forcing the rest of the world to manage Europe's waste problems, they must immediately take back all of the wastes they have recently shipped to Turkey and to Vietnam."

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