The Polish Government has said that it will introduce new laws to make it harder to export materials for recycling into the country.
In recent weeks, the country has been beset by a series of fires, which it believes were illegal waste imports that have been burned purposely to avoid scrutiny.
During the last week alone, there were six major fires involving materials stored for recycling including of paper, plastics, vehicles, tires and furniture. Since the beginning of the year, more than 60 fires have burned involving waste materials. There have been three times more fires this year than in previous years.
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The Polish Government believes there has been an increase in the amount of material exported into the country, since the Chinese banned imports at the beginning of this year.
According to Reuters, Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski told a news conference: “The rise in these strange accidents is really accelerating and this is obviously related to China’s decision to close its market to waste imports, either municipal waste or waste from recycling from Europe.
“What follows is that there has been a recorded increase in illegal imports to Poland of materials that should not be in our country.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has instructed the Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk to come up with proposals for new laws on the import of waste in the next two weeks.
The Prime Minister said: “The waste is imported into the country on the basis of recycling, but it is not known until the end, what is entering. We will change the regulations so that in a clear and meticulous way, an environmental protection inspector will be able to prevent these materials coming in.”
Regulations will be improved to give police, boarder guards and road transport inspectors, as well as environmental protection inspectors, more power to prevent illegal waste being sent to Poland.
Initial proposals also include introducing financial guarantees for those collecting, storing and processing of waste as well as mandatory video monitoring of waste storage facilities.
The Environment Ministry has also suggested that the permissable storage time for materials should be reduced to one year from the current three years, and that more severe penalties for handling and storing illegal waste.
Additionally, it has proposed that facilities will be told of the acceptable amount of waste permitted on their site, the specific storage conditions allowed and the fire protection measures required.
The Polish Government has so far identified approximately 120 illegal waste storage facilities. These include:
- 66 facilities that contain waste where the permit has expired
- 34 places where waste was stored in an area not intended for this purpose where the permit only allowed for outside storage for recovery of the material
- 15 places where waste was stored in a place not intended for waste storage at all
- 6 places where waste has been abandoned