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Toxic waste returns from Brazil

21 August 09 10:44 GMT

Containers of hazardous waste alleged to have been illegally exported from the UK to Brazil have arrived back at docks in Suffolk.

More than 70 of the 89 containers arrived at the port in Felixstowe on board the cargo ship MSC Serena, with more of the waste due at a later date.

The containers, said to include syringes and condoms, have to be fumigated before they can be examined.

Three men were arrested in Swindon in July in connection with the shipment.

The Environment Agency began an investigation after the waste was found by Brazilian officials in three of the country's ports over the past few months.

Andrew Higham, head of the Environment Agency's National Environment Crime Unit, was at the dockside to meet the ship.

He said the Brazilian authorities had told him the waste had been exported under the guise of recyclable plastic but actually contained hazardous and toxic waste.

Earlier this month, officers from the agency's National Environmental Crime Team, along with Wiltshire Police, raided premises in Swindon.

The three arrested men, aged 24, 28 and 49, were bailed until the end of October.

Mr Higham said the illegal export of waste was treated extremely seriously.

"The United Kingdom has taken a strong global lead to stamp out the illegal waste trade, in order to protect people and the environment," he said.

"We are not going to allow our waste to be dumped on developing countries."

Waste can be sent abroad for recycling, but not for disposal.

The maximum penalty for exporting waste illegally is an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

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