Credit goes to Réseau Tunisie Verte

Forty-four international environmental groups co-signed a demand yesterday (3 May) calling for the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius to order the immediate repatriation of Italian municipal waste that was illegally shipped to Tunisia last year.

In July 2020, Italian company Sviluppo Risorse Ambientali exported 282 containers to the Tunisian port city of Sousse, which it claimed was processed waste that would be recycled.

The containers were listed as storing plastic scraps for recycling, but customs officers in Tunisia discovered the cargo was made up of decaying household and medical waste that could not be recycled and that is barred from import under Tunisian law.

The Tunisian Ministry of Environment opened an enquiry into the containers in November, after Islamic news channel Mugtama reported that a local company had signed a deal to import 120,000 tonnes of household waste from Italy annually for 18 billion Tunisian dinar (£4.72 billion).

The exports became the subject of a national scandal in Tunisia when it was revealed that government officials had knowingly approved of the illegal shipments.

In December last year, Tunisia’s Environment Minister Mustapha Aroui was sacked from his position and was arrested alongside senior customs officials and members of Tunisia’s National Agency for Waste Management, and are all now facing prosecution for their involvement.

Organisations that have co-signed the demand for Italy to repatriate the waste, including the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the Basel Action Network, Réseau Tunisie Verte (Green Tunisia Network) and Zero Waste Europe, have condemned Italian and Tunisian authorities for failing to act on returning the illegal waste, noting that the court in Rome currently responsible for the case has been adjourned until 15 July.


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