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Sri Lankans demand UK take back rotting waste

Sri Lankans are up in arms over the alleged dumping of hazardous waste from Britain, including syringes and suspected human remains from mortuaries.

The government has urged Britain to immediately take back more than 100 containers sent to the island nation that contained the putrid waste mixed up amid mattresses, clothes and plastics.

Many of the containers are believed to have arrived from the UK as far back as 2017. According to reports they were only inspected last week after port officials complained that 111 containers abandoned by an importer were emitting a horrible smell.

"Some of the materials have been liquidised and deteriorated to the point that we cannot even examine them and the waste is emitting a bad odour," Customs Department spokesman Sunil Jayaratne told Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror newspaper.

Authorities said on Tuesday that they had taken "immediate action to order the re-export of the 111 containers abandoned at the port".

But on Wednesday, the UK's Environment Agency told the BBC that while it was investigating what had happened, it was yet to receive any formal request from Sri Lankan authorities to repatriate the waste.

Mr Jayaratne said a Sri Lankan businessman had imported the containers and would be responsible for re-exporting them.

'Disguised as recycling'

This is just the latest case of an Asian country angered by the dumping of waste by Western nations disguised as recycling.

China's decision in January 2018 to no longer accept foreign plastic waste for recycling has upended the global industry and led to a surge in exports to other developing countries.

In May, the Philippines sent 69 containers of refuse back to Canada that it said had been falsely labelled as plastic recycling.

Earlier this month, Cambodia announced it would send 83 containers packed with rubbish to the US and Canada. "Cambodia is not a dustbin," a government spokesman said.

There have been similar cases in Indonesia and Malaysia in recent months.

The UK government told the BBC it was "committed to tackling illegal waste exports".

"Individuals found to be exporting incorrectly described waste can face a two-year jail term or an unlimited fine," an Environment Agency spokesperson said.

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