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Poland in spat with Germany over claims of illegal waste increasing risk of fires

The fire at Zielona Gora has highlighted the issue of Poland's waste management.
The fire at Zielona Gora has highlighted the issue of Poland's waste management. Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Euronews
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A fire at a Polish landfill site has brought attention to the county's waste management policies and claims that waste is being illegally brought in from Germany.


The fire last month at the landfill site in Zielona Gora has brought the issue of Poland's waste management into the spotlight. 

Inadequate storage and treatment, along with illegal waste loads have become a huge problem in the country say observers and environmental activists.

"Twenty million euros to dispose of waste, and deal with the environmental effects, and now with soil reclamation, restoration, protection, it may be ten times higher," Dariusz Legutowski, a member of the city council of Zielona Gora, explained to Euronews. "It's an ecological catastrophe. We have complaints about the operation of all services for not revealing the actual impact on the environment. It was only after a week that we had a warning to be careful with local garden plants."

The fire has also brought the issue of illegal waste back onto the agenda.

After the incident, the Polish Ministry of Climate filed a complaint with the European Commission regarding 35,000 tons of illegal waste shipments from Germany, the first step before applying to the European Court of Justice.

"The authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany do not feel obliged to collect this waste," said Aleksander Brzózka, spokesperson for the ministry. "We wanted to resolve this matter out of court, unfortunately, it did not work hence, according to the law, each EU Member State has the right to submit a complaint to the EC against another state – and so we did. Now, the committee has three months to analyse and respond to this matter."

Christopher Stolzenberg from the German Ministry for the Environment said that returning illegal shipments is the responsibility of the federal states.” He added, however, that the fact that illegal waste shipments from Germany are taking place is of great concern to them and the ministry remains committed to improving the prevention of illegal waste shipments in the EU.”

Observers who take an interest in the issue, including journalist Ewa Dunal, say the problem is much bigger than people realise: "There are now over 400 illegal landfills in the country (Poland), of which about 140 are places where hazardous waste has been detected. More and more journalists are bringing this topic up. Officials have also been struggling with this for a long time, so I hope that this tendency to fight environmental crime, strictly speaking - the fight against hazardous waste, will expand and more of these landfills will be revealed."

Euronews correspondent Magdalena Chodownik said the Polish government is considering providing more support to local communities for waste disposal.

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