Press Release, June 22, 2007
Coalition against Bayer Dangers

Campaign success against HCB imports from Australia!

Coalition against Bayer Dangers: “Imports of toxic waste need to be reconsidered”

The Coalition against Bayer Dangers has welcomed the decision by the Environment Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Christian von Boetticher, and of North Rhine-Westphalia, Eckhart Uhlenberg, to refuse permission for the import of Australian hazardous waste to Germany. According Boetticher and Uhlenberg the import of Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) would have contravened the Basel Convention. The Australian government had not sufficiently demonstrated that the hazardous waste could not be disposed of on site. Hexachlorobenzene is one of the so-called ‘dirty dozen’, the most dangerous toxins, which are subject to an international ban by the Stockholm Convention. The substance is not biodegradable and leads to metabolic disorders, cancers and organ damage in humans.

Philipp Mimkes of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers stated that: “This is a great success for the environmental movement and local initiatives. Without the vigorous protests by the affected people the project would have been given the nod by the German authorities. Resistance to high-risk businesses is worth the effort”.

During the winter the Australian firm ORICA applied to bring 22 000 tonnes of waste containing hexachlorobenzene to Germany. The hazardous waste was intended to be burnt in incinerators in Brunsbüttel, Herten, Dormagen and Leverkusen, the latter two of which belong to Bayer. The Coalition against Bayer Dangers, together with Friends of the Earth Germany and local initiatives from Herten, began to protest against the threatened import.

Imports of waste products to North Rhine-Westphalia alone amount to more than 2.4 million tonnes per year, about a quarter of which is hazardous waste. “It is not acceptable that such a densely populated region, which already has a high level of ecological damage, is the destination for international toxic waste traffic. The commercial interests of Bayer and other ‘disposers’ must take second place to protection of the population’s health. We demand disclosure of information on the origin and contents of all imports, as well as a drastic reduction in the imports”, Mimkes continued. In North Rhine-Westphalia alone imports of hazardous waste have risen by ten times in the last ten years.

As long ago as the late 1980s the Coalition against Bayer Dangers and the Greens forecasted toxic waste tourism to Bayer sites and therefore spoke out against the construction of the Dormagen hazardous waste incinerator and the expansion of the Leverkusen refuse incinerator. In fact, 300 companies from Germany and from abroad now send toxic waste to Dormagen and Leverkusen. The Dormagen plant was originally only approved for waste from the Bayer Group and hazardous waste from the neighbouring district. In 2004 it was hurriedly enlarged so that it could incinerate waste from all over the world.

The population is endangered not only through the discharge of toxic substances, but also by the transport of the toxic waste. There are more and more accidents in water, rail and road transport. Another problem is the filter cake which occurs when cleaning the waste gas; this contains many toxins and must be deposited over decades.

ABC News, June 19, 2007

Sydney stuck with world's largest chemical dump

The world's largest stockpile of a toxic chemical will remain in Sydney after two state governments in Germany refused to accept it.

A plan to export and destroy nearly 16,000 tonnes of the chemical hexachlorobenzene (HCB) has now been delayed.
The waste is owned by the chemical giant Orica, and is being stored at the company's Botany site in southern Sydney.
Orica spokesman John Fetter says the waste was to be destroyed at four plants in Germany, after no suitable site was found in Australia.
Mr Fetter says the company will now be looking at its legal options.
"We have contractual agreements in place from the four plants to take the waste and obviously you don't do something like this lightly," he said.
"We believe we've created the most detailed application ever to export waste of this sort internationally. Our application is some thousand pages long."

Residents' reaction
John Burgess, from the Botany Groundwater Project community group, says he is very disappointed with the decision from Germany.
He says it was thought a solution had finally been found.
"I'm not in the process of creating alarm. There's no alarm with this stuff. The product is safely contained at the moment," he said.
"But the fact is, it's like having a bomb storehouse next door to you. If some idiot gets in there, something could happen."

Toxic waste experts partially relieved
A peak green group looking at toxic waste in Australia says it is partially relieved that the export of the stockpile of chemical waste has stalled.
Doctor Mariann Lloyd-Smith from the National Toxics Network says while it is disappointing for the local community, it was never a viable option.
"We never believed that the idea of exporting it to another country, to deal with our waste, was an appropriate response to this stockpile," she said.

More Information on Toxic Waste from Australia: