Ship carrying containers of rubbish arrives back in Britain after three-week voyage. Brazil, which rejected the shipment saying it contained toxic waste, has fined three local firms, but investigations are still underway in both countries.
SANTOS, BRAZIL (FILE - AUGUST 5, 2009) REUTERS - Seventy-one of a total of 81 multi-coloured containers arrived at the British port of Felixstowe on Friday morning (August 21) on the cargo ship MSC Serena. The remaining ten will return next week, the English Environment Agency said.
Some of the containers contain clinical waste including syringes, nappies and condoms, according to the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA).
The MSC Oriane set sail on August 5 from Santos to return the rotting cargo to Britain from Brazil, where it had been shipped falsely declared as plastic for recycling.
The containers were hoisted on to the freighter in the early morning hours at Santos, South America's largest port, destined for Antwerp. There, 71 of the containers were transferred to the MSC Serena, bound for Felixstowe.
The incident outraged many Brazilians and prompted President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to criticise Britain and developed nations for urging higher environmental standards while using developing nations as garbage dumps.
Criminal investigations are under way in Britain and Brazil to discover how the waste came to be shipped this year and last to Santos and another port further south.
Brazil has fined firms that imported or handled the waste. Brazilian law prohibits the import of household waste for any purpose, including recycling.
British police arrested three men in late July but no formal charges have been brought against them and they have been released on bail after surrendering their passports.
It will be a week before English Environment Agency investigators can examine the contents themselves as it has to be fumigated first.
The agency said once evidence has been gathered, it will ensure the waste is safely dealt with by an appointed contractor. It said the shipping lines contracted to transport the containers from the UK to Brazil agreed to bring the containers back to the UK at their own expense.
It is illegal to export waste for disposal, but it can be sent abroad for recycling. The maximum penalty for exporting waste illegally is an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.