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article imagePoland to probe string of blazes at landfills

By AFP     May 29, 2018 in World

Poland's prime minister on Tuesday asked justice and security authorities to look into dozens of blazes at landfills this year amid allegations that a "mafia" has boosted garbage imports after China banned them.

Poland imports waste from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Austria among others.

"The Internal Security Agency has been notified and... I asked the prosecutor general to take decisive action to investigate the matter," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters as several blazes sent up thick, toxic smoke near residential areas in various parts of Poland in recent days.

Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski said he believed the blazes were "clearly linked with China's decision to close its own garbage market" this January, leaving nations scrambling to find new dumping grounds for growing piles of garbage.

For years China was the world's top destination for recyclable trash, but the new ban bars imports of 24 categories of solid waste, including certain types of plastics, paper and textiles.

Poland's environment minister Henryk Kowalczyk said Tuesday he thought that a "garbage mafia" was responsible for over-stocking Polish landfills. But he also blamed the situation on loopholes in legislation that allow waste to be stored "in an unlimited way, only to fill the landfill" and then close the company.

"We can't become an illegal garbage dump for Europe," Kowalczyk told reporters in Warsaw.

According to data from the Polish Health Inspectorate, some 733,000 tons of waste entered Poland last year, compared to 367,000 tons in 2015.

The government also announced inspections of the waste disposal companies where the blazes occurred. It said it would look at legislative measures to better control waste handling and to prosecute infringements.

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