VICTORY: Sri Lankan court orders waste containers to return to the UK

Oct 16, 2020

On October 15, after a year-long court process, the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal has ordered the repatriation of 243 waste containers imported from the United Kingdom (UK). The Court also requested that government authorities take legal action against the companies involved in this illegal importation. The petition was filed by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), seeking a court order banning the import of waste to the country. The matter was examined by the Court of Appeal, President H. M. D. Nawaz, and Justice Sobitha Rajakaruna.

The waste containers were shipped to Sri Lanka in 2017 by Ceylon Metal Processing (PVT) Ltd, with the support of Hayley’s group. They were found in Hayley’s Hub operation location in Katunayaka FTZ and the China container terminal in Colombo Harbour. The containers were reportedly shipped by UK exporter Vanguard with the assistance of a relative residing in Sri Lanka. The shipment failed to receive consent from Sri Lanka and the UK, violating the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. 

During the hearing, the Court requested that the Government analyst produce a report after examining the containers. However, due to a lack of capacity, this was not achieved. Later, the Ministry of Environment and the Central Environmental Authority negotiated with the UK Basel Focal point, to take the freight containers carrying waste back to the UK.

As a pilot activity, two agencies repatriated 21 containers imported by the same companies, which are not the subject matter of the case filed by the CEJ. The court was informed by a letter that the company responsible for shipping the waste is willing to take the containers back.

The Sri Lanka government is now demanding SLR 1.6 billion from the UK for illegal exportation of waste to Sri Lanka against the Basel Convention. Sri Lanka Customs Department and Central Environmental Authority have agreed to prosecute the companies responsible for the unlawful importation of post-consumer waste.

Counsel appeared for CEJ includes Mr. Ravindranath Dabare, together with Attorneys Ms. Nilmal Wickramasinghe, Miss Sawanthi Ponnamperuma, Miss. Nimmi Sanjewani and Mr. Sumudu Sandaruvan.

For more information contact:
Hemantha Withanage,
Executive Director,
Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka