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  • Dumping waste illegally

    by Rumbold
    22nd September, 2009 at 10:27 am    

    In a good piece, George Monbiot highlights the scandal of the amount of hazardous waste dumped off the coasts of poor/corrupt countries:

    “It was revolting, monstrous, inhumane – and scarcely different from what happens in Africa almost every day. The oil trading company Trafigura has just agreed to pay compensation to 31,000 people in Ivory Coast, after the Guardian and the BBC’s Newsnight obtained emails sent by its traders. They reveal that Trafigura knew that the oil slops it sent there in 2006 were contaminated with toxic waste. But the Ivorian contractor it employed to pump out the hold of its tanker dumped them around inhabited areas in the capital city and the countryside.”

    He also shows that the typical response to this, which is to call for more regulation, more money for regulators and more laws, is pointless:

    “The law couldn’t be clearer: the Basel convention, supported by European directives, forbids European Union or OECD nations from dumping hazardous wastes in poorer countries. But without enforcement, the law is useless.”

    His views chime with mine. What we need to do is to enforce the laws we have, and if the expensively-assembled regulators are not doing that, they shouldn’t be given more money and powers. They should be sacked.

    (Hat-Tip: Amrit)

                  Post to

    Filed in: Environmentalism

    22 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Dumping waste illegally

    1. David O'Keefe — on 22nd September, 2009 at 10:46 am  

      “Tedious directives, state power and bureaucratic snooping – the interference that everyone professes to hate – are all that stand between civilisation and corporate hell.”

      This part you ignored, but then again it doesn’t chime with your world view containing as it does a critique of capitalism.

    2. Rumbold — on 22nd September, 2009 at 10:56 am  

      I think he just put that part in for the natives. I could read between the lines. And his fundamental point was sound: you have laws and you should enforce them, not worry about making new ones.

    3. Andy Gilmour — on 22nd September, 2009 at 11:49 am  

      “I think he just put that part in for the natives. I could read between the lines”


      Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. You should ask him, perhpas?

      Don’t think the casual tone of assumed superiority suits you, though…

    4. persephone — on 22nd September, 2009 at 12:02 pm  

      I read about this at the weekend and saw their victoriously entitled press release: “SETTLEMENT VINDICATES TRAFIGURA” which focuses on the lack of a link being established to the more serious injuries.

      The release also trumpets how their extensive remedial work (post discovery) in the region demonstrates that it is living up to its values as a responsible organisation.

      After messing up (no pun intended) themselves they insist that others are more rigorous:

      “ It is to be hoped that, in light of today’s statement, the media and other interest groups will approach their reporting of this matter with greater rigour”

      (Full release is here

      Yet the Trafigura website blithely states that their impact is a positive one:


      Trafigura’s impact on the global economy is a positive one; our responsibility is to the communities in which we operate, our customers, our suppliers and employees.

      As physical traders whose success rests on long-term ownership of assets, supporting local communities is essential to our business. Our community involvement programme will bring together the contributions that Trafigura already makes under a more cohesive group framework.”

      So alls right with the world. As long as you clean up afterwards.

    5. cjcjc — on 22nd September, 2009 at 12:06 pm  

      Surely one can say that if he meant what Rumbold said, then one agrees.

      If he was bleating on about the evils of capitalism then one can ignore him as usual.

      What we need to do is to enforce the laws we have, and if the expensively-assembled regulators are not doing that, they shouldn’t be given more money and powers. They should be sacked.

      Indeed, that could apply to every area of life could it not?

    6. Rumbold — on 22nd September, 2009 at 6:29 pm  


      I was being rather mischevous.

    7. TheIrie — on 22nd September, 2009 at 10:46 pm  

      This brings to mind that infamous Larry Summer’s memo:

      “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons: 1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. 2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I’ve always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste. [...]”

      Rather depressingly, Larry Summers is now Obama’s Director of the White House’s National Economic Council.


    8. falcao — on 22nd September, 2009 at 11:40 pm  

      With european countries also dumping toxic waste near the somalian coast it seems this is regular festure of european companies to dump toxic waste in africa. Then when somalian’s retaliate by hijacking ships because their fish stocks/livelihoods have been destroyed courtesy of you know who, we have the nerve to point the finger at them and call them the bad guys!

    9. damon — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:58 am  

      31.000 people are claiming compensation?
      Serves the firms right. (but that is a of of people).

      I’d guess that everyone and their uncle is putting in a claim. Like happened with the British army and rape claims some years ago in Kenya.

    10. Andy Gilmour — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:05 pm  

      Rumbold @ #6,

      But that’s not how it comes across…

      Besides, unlike a number of folk I could mention, you’re better than that.

      Well, usually…

    11. kip — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:08 pm  

      Can’t this stuff be sprayed over Libya?

      Or Iran?

      Just a thought.

    12. Rumbold — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:09 pm  


      Well, thank you for saying I am better than that. I was trying to be mischevous, but there was also a serious point in there. Namely that things can often be solved by simply enforcing existing laws, rather than introducing more laws and throwing money at people who clearly haven’t been doing their jobs properly.

    13. Andy Gilmour — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:18 pm  

      Well, yes, obviously, but that doesn’t excuse the ‘reading between the lines’ assertion :-)

      It’s a slippery slope - soon you’ll start coming over all sweary and abusive when ye’ve got no arguments left, just like….

      :-) )

    14. Rumbold — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:21 pm  

      “It’s a slippery slope – soon you’ll start coming over all sweary and abusive when ye’ve got no arguments left, just like….”

      A leftie? Heh.

    15. cjcjc — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:34 pm  

      What I thought Rumbold meant by “reading between the lines” was “ignoring the idiotic bits, he may have a point”.

      Nothing to excuse.

    16. persephone — on 23rd September, 2009 at 1:44 pm  

      this is turning into a debate on the Rumbold that turned

    17. Andy Gilmour — on 23rd September, 2009 at 10:57 pm  


      Ahhh, now I get it - your interestingly ‘different’ understanding of idiomatic English explains quite a lot about some of your posts…

      ;-) )


      Certain self-identifying “lefties”, yes, if it’s only here we’re talking about - of course, a brief perusal of certain bonfire-and-fireworks-related right-wing blogs would show an equal (perhaps greater? certainly crueller…) incivility from t’other side…

      :-) )

      I’m starting to worry about exactly what it is he’s turning into. It might even be a Cameroonie…(Libertarianism softens the mind, ya know, so anything’s possible)
      :-) )

    18. persephone — on 23rd September, 2009 at 11:55 pm  


      “It might even be a Cameroonie”

      The footballing or soft soap kind?

    19. Andy Gilmour — on 24th September, 2009 at 12:05 am  


      ah, you’ve got me there. No idea, I’ll ask him - Mr. Rumbold, do ye qualify through a grandparent, or similar…?


    20. Rumbold — on 24th September, 2009 at 10:06 am  

      Now I am just confused. I am a classical liberal, and not a fan of David Cameron.

    21. Charlieman — on 24th September, 2009 at 8:39 pm  

      Falcao @8: “With european countries also dumping toxic waste near the somalian coast…”

      Pardon the pedantry, but it isn’t European countries who are dumping toxic waste, but companies. European countries, in theory, try to regulate the transportation of waste and only recyclable materials should be shipped to developing nations (note the return of polluted “recyclables” to the UK by Brazil six months ago). Further, there is international law covering dumping of toxic materials by national governments.

      The Trafigura dumping was perpetrated by a company, not a government. The waste was created outside the EU, and Trafigura would probably have got away with their crime if they had not first sent the ship bearing waste to a European port. As Rumbold states, this is an enforcement problem, but the problem is only going to get worse. The next company that tries such a move will use a ship registered in a failed or corrupt country and will not give their motives away by requesting quotes from responsible waste managers.

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