Portugal’s Participation in WCO’s Operation DEMETER VI

Ana Cristina Barbosa's picture
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The illegal transport of waste at global and European level generates high illegal profits from non-compliance with existing environmental rules (Basel Convention regulating the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste), leading to long-term consequences for the environment and public health. On the other hand, life on earth depends on the ozone layer which protects us from solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

The depletion of the ozone layer has occurred due to human action that has artificially introduced high quantities of ozone-depleting substances (ODS - OzoneDepletting Substances), such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), halons in the stratosphere, causing greater amounts of ultraviolet radiation to reach the Earth's surface. (ODS - regulated by the Montreal Protocol). 

This edition of the operation aimed to monitor and control transboundary movement of waste, focussing on plastic waste and hospital waste within the context of Covid-19, as well as substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol, including hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which contribute to global warming and climate change.

DEMETER VI, an initiative of PR China, had the participation of 73 customs administrations and the special collaboration and organisation of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the operational support of the Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) for Asia/Pacific and Western Europe. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) also supported the operation, through its support to WCO members, with information at the level of the highest risks. 

The operation also involved the other nine RILOs of the WCO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, Europol, the EU Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), the Basel Convention Secretariat, as well as the staff of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) OzonAction, ensuring a collective approach to support Operation DEMETER VI.  Overall internationally the operation has achieved substantial results, despite the measures in place to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which impose some restrictions on the operational capacity of the customs authorities, controls on suspect shipments have resulted in a total of 131 seizures, as released by the WCO on 29/10/2020:

At national level, the operation took place between 28/09 and 11/10 and covered export and import, sea and air routes. In this context, 70 controls were carried out by the participating customs, through which around 7600 tonnes of waste (which also includes some quantities of ozone-depleting substances) were checked, resulting from its development in the detection of several irregularities in terms of non-compliance with specific waste legislation, as well as other irregularities of a specific customs scope.

Among the irregularities identified, it should be noted that an irregularity was detected by Braga Customs in an export whose goods were destined for Pakistan (16,000 kg of plastic waste) and it was found out that the recipient of the waste in question was not duly authorised to receive it, as well as non-conformities in the waste shipment contract, as a result of which the export was not carried out.

It is also worth mentioning another irregularity detected by the Freixieiro Customs, in an export of 28,500 kg of paper to Pakistan, wrongly declared as plastic waste, and no documentation was provided to prove that the importer's facilities were a suitable destination to receive waste paper and board. This led to the cancellation of the respective export.