Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Illegal transport of waste from Greece to Liberia
14 • 02 • 2020

In December 2019, Greece exported about 100 tons of waste to Liberia in violation of EU waste transportation legislation. Following notification from the Liberian authorities, the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy acknowledged illegality and repatriated the waste.

On December 23, 2019, four containers with approximately 100 tons of polypropylene waste, plastic bags used in agricultural work (PP Big Bags) arrived in Monrovia, Liberia from the port of Piraeus. However, according to documents from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the above transfer was made in violation of EU law on waste transportation and now Greece, at its own cost,has made arrangements for its repatriation.

In February 2020, the Liberian authorities informed Greece that four containers had been seized in the port of Monrovia on the basis that their transportation took place illegally. The transport was made on the initiative of an individual from Greece, however, the national authorities are ultimately responsible for the implementation of the relevant legislation.

This illegal transport from Greece is part of a larger global waste management problem, where waste is often exported from developed countries to developing countries under questionable conditions for public health and environmental protection. Indeed, states manage a significant portion of their waste by exporting it via container ships from the developed world to poor countries. In the first nine months of 2020 alone, more than 1.7 billion kgs of waste were exported from the EU, the US, the United Kingdom and Japan to third countries. Greece is no exception, exporting waste worldwide, from Malaysia and the Philippines to Pakistan and Vietnam.

Governments often do not know if the waste that has been disposed of will eventually be recycled and reintegrated into the circular economy. This is waste that can be toxic and threaten not only the environment and biodiversity, but also the health of populations in host countries as well as in developed countries, where “recycled” plastics are often returned to . A scientific study published in Environment International has identified 126 chemicals in plastic toys that pose a risk to children’s health, some of which have resulted from the recycling of contaminated plastics.

Where is the problem with the Rule of Law?

As an EU Member State, Greece has a firm obligation to implement EU law, which aims to establish common rules of law throughout the Union and to protect the rights and public goods enjoyed by European citizens.

However, in this case Greece has violated its obligations under Regulation (EC) no. 1013/20 and Regulation (EC) no. Regulation (EC) No 1418/2007 (as amended by Regulation (EC) No 733/2014). 

This illegal export of waste to Liberia was in violation of the rule of law, which requires Member States to respect and enforce EU law, which in this case aims at the management and transport of waste in a manner that is safe for the environment and public health.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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