Australia calls Denmark waste ship U-turn 'unfortunate'

December 24, 2010
Morning breaks at Copenhagen's North harbour in 2009. Australia Friday said it was "unfortunate" that Denmark had cancelled plans to receive and destroy shipments of thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste, as the company involved considered its next move.

Australia Friday said it was "unfortunate" that Denmark had cancelled plans to receive and destroy shipments of thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste, as the company involved considered its next move.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said the decision was made on political rather than safety grounds, and followed strong opposition to disposing of the highly toxic hexachlorobenzene at a specialised facility west of Copenhagen.

"(Danish environment minister Karen Ellemann) informed me about the political situation and debate in Denmark, which -- regrettably -- has led to the political conclusion that the shipment should not proceed," Burke said.

"Mrs. Ellemann assured me that all required environmental and safety assessments have been conducted to the satisfaction of the Danish authorities, and that the Danish conclusion therefore by nature is political."

Burke added that it was an "unfortunate situation".

Denmark postponed the shipments this month and finally cancelled them on Thursday following a backlash based on environmental concerns. The shipments, due to travel halfway round the world, had also been criticised by .

Chemicals company Orica, which has been stockpiling the solvents by-product since the 1960s in the absence of facilities to destroy it in Australia, would not comment on possible alternative arrangements.

"We will be reviewing all of our options and obviously we will continue to store the waste safely into the future, and evaluating what options are available to destroy the waste," said corporate affairs manager John Fetter.

Moving the 6,100 tonnes of had been approved by both the Australian and Danish governments under the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of .

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5 / 5 (2) Dec 24, 2010
The article does not explain why hexachlorobenzene is so difficult to destroy. It looks to me like a simple organic compound, with six Cl and six C. Surely, someone in Australia during the past 50 years could have built a sufficiently hot chemical incinerator. It wouldn't have to be very big to burn up 6,100 tones in a short period of time.

Perhaps someone could explain.
5 / 5 (3) Dec 24, 2010
The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense - and environmentalism.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2010
Everybody wants to go to heaven,
But nobody wants to die.
5 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2010
The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense - and environmentalism.

Right. I am sure that there are plastics plants somewhere in the world where hexachlorobenzene is a valuable feedstock or intermediate. The producing company may have itself used it, but ended up with some left over when laws changed*, and have been accumulating ever since. Now under current international laws it has to be used in Australia or destroyed. Sigh!

Same situation with "spent" nuclear fuel rods. The materials in a single rod can be worth a million dollars or more. But propose to even recycle the non-nuclear parts of the rods and listen to the screams.

* I'd have to check but ISTR hexachlorobenzene as an intermediate in producing some chlorofluorocarbons that can no longer be used as refrigerants or for degreasing printed circuit boards because of the Ozone treaty.
not rated yet Dec 25, 2010
Props to what you said, Ormondotvos!
not rated yet Dec 25, 2010
Company in America called API has process to
safely destroy HCB.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2010
This sounds like an opportunity for the Danish company to open a new specialized facility in Australia...

[deleted, what!? physorg spam filter?]

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