Portugal suspends foreign trash imports to cope with own waste surge

The country has already blocked 246,000 tonnes of trash from entering since the start of the year and no new imports will be accepted, the government said in a statement. [Renato Martinho / Shutterstock]

Portugal, which usually attracts huge mounds of rubbish from other European states because of its low waste management fees, has suspended imports of trash until the end of 2020 to protect domestic landfill capacity, the government said on Saturday (16 May).

“This decision is intended to ensure we have sufficient national capacity in waste processing facilities,” the government said in a statement.

The country has already blocked 246,000 tonnes of trash from entering since the start of the year, the statement said, and no new imports will be accepted.

The country charges €11 to process a tonne of trash, considerably below the European average of €80.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen an increase in plastic waste in many countries – ranging from medical workers’ protective gear such as aprons and gloves to takeaway boxes, as people under lockdown order food to their homes.

The government is due to revise its laws on landfills and waste management this summer, as its waste reduction and recycling targets become harder to attain due to the pandemic.

Portugal has already limited its recycling efforts for the duration of the pandemic due to concerns over the health risk to workers coming into contact with contaminated plastic waste.

Some 330,000 tonnes of foreign trash, including waste containing hazardous substances, arrived from other countries in 2018, the government’s environment agency APA said.

110,000 tonnes ended up in the 11 landfills in the country authorised to receive trash from abroad.

Portugal has so far reported 28,810 cases of the new coronavirus, and 1,203 deaths.

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