LYON (AFP) - More than 1.5 million tonnes of illegal waste were seized in June in the biggest ever such global clampdown organised with 43 police forces, Interpol announced on Tuesday (Aug 8).
More than 300 people were cited for violations over disposal of waste, much of which ends up polluting the sea or land and constituting a health hazard.
"It shows what can be accomplished when countries work together to detect, disrupt and deter pollution crime," said Mr Joseph Poux of the US Department of Justice.
The month-long operation in June, called "30 Days of Action", was aimed at giving a warning to criminals specialised in this kind of traffic, he said.
"The organised criminal groups involved in illicit waste trafficking should be warned that they will be caught," he said in a statement issued by the Lyon-based Interpol.
Most waste seized was metal or electronic, generally related to the car industry. Some 326 individuals and 244 companies were cited in criminal or administrative violations.
Asia and Africa were the main destinations for waste illegally exported from Europe and North America for dumping or processing, with trafficking also occurring between countries within Europe.
Waste crime is seen as a low-risk, high-reward business for organised networks which exploit differences in legislation between countries and regions, as well as weak enforcement systems, it said.
The environmental impact is potentially enormous.
"Waste crime is a worldwide concern. Of the 275 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in 2010, up to 12.7 million tonnes were illegally dumped into the ocean," said Interpol.
"When hazardous waste is improperly disposed, it contaminates the water, soil and air, threatening global health and safety."