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Head of National Environmental Guard: Romanian customs under pressure from waste trafficking rings

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Organized crime structures are putting pressure on Romanian customs to introduce ever increasing amounts of waste into the country, given that Europe has run out of waste storage capacity and China has closed its gates in this regard, general commissioner of the National Environmental Guard (GNM) Octavian Berceanu declared on Thursday in Craiova.

"We may somehow have to also redo the legislation, because abroad stockpiling on illegal landfills is a crime. No one comes with a truck loaded with construction debris to dump it anywhere, because in other countries, besides a very large fine and the confiscation of the vehicle as a complementary measure, such deeds are classified as crimes. Maybe we should also adjust the Romanian law as well, because we witness the highest wave of illegal waste dumping in Europe. Why do we have a rising waste tide at the border? Because China has banned waste imports in 2018. The cost to neutralize waste is about 250-300 euros per tonne abroad, whereas in Romania the storage costs are much lower, at 50-70 euros. And a whole business has developed around this, and we are now doing prevention work to halt waste entries to the country, stop the containers and dismantle organized crime structures that have emerged behind this business. Customs points are under high pressure: they attempt all the time to take advantage of a moment of inattention of the customs officers, the border police, the environmental commissioners and therefore we are running full steam permanently, 24 hours a day," Octavian Berceanu told a press conference.

According to the GNM general commissioner, pressure on customs points has increased in recent months and one of the reasons is that Europe's waste storage capacities are full to the brim.

"With soaring waste volumes, the storage capacity has gone down, it is filled to the brim, and this waste has to be dumped somewhere; since the gate to China is no longer open, they try to dispose it in the nearest free space, somewhere where no one sees them. They are trying to move this waste somewhere where no one sees them in Europe, in various forms," Berceanu pointed out, explaining that one of the methods to illegally sneak waste to Romania is by trucks in which various goods are stacked in the front two or three rows, serving as cover-up for tons of waste behind.

"They range from toys to documents and second-hand items, the first two or three stacks appear to be toys or other valuables, and there's something completely different in the back. The Ministry supports the procurement of mobile scanners, so that we can somehow see what is in the containers, to make our work more efficient, to have a much better information flow and check in real time who sends what, because once such a container has entered Romania, it is very difficult, almost impossible to find it. Everything that was inside the container is gone on a 20-km stretch," said Berceanu, reports agerpres.

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