Poland’s government is cracking down on illegal waste shipments and proposing new laws to toughen penalties for environmental crimes.
But those measures are unlikely to do much to improve the country’s poor record in meeting EU recycling and waste targets, activists and academics warn.
“The issue of waste imports is minor. We have much bigger problems with our own waste, we cannot deal with our 13 million tons a year. Half a million [tons] from outside Poland is not an issue here,” said Piotr Barczak, a board member of the NGO Zero Waste Poland.
That’s not the way Warsaw is playing the issue.
The environment ministry on Monday announced authorities had detected 30 locations where waste — largely soil mixed with rocks and construction materials — was illegally shipped from a German company located in Beeskow near the Polish border.
“The transports were taking place without any kinds of markings on trucks and without documents needed for the international movement of waste,” said Deputy Climate and Environment Minister Jacek Ozdoba, adding that the find “shows that further structural and legal change is necessary to tighten the international waste stream market.”
The government is working on measures to fight environmental crimes, including doubling the maximum prison sentence for illegal waste trading to 10 years and boosting fines for illegal waste disposal.
Illegal waste shipments to Poland have been a problem for years.