Environmental activists are celebrating but the Australian company planning to ship toxic waste to Denmark says it is disappointed the plan has been put on hold.
The Danish Government postponed Orica’s shipment of decades-old chemical waste after heavy pressure from the community and the country’s opposition.
Denmark had earlier agreed to the waste being disposed of at a Danish incineration facility. Orica now hopes the Australian Government can intervene.
But Greenpeace Australia’s Linda Selvey has welcomed Denmak’s decision and says the waste is too dangerous to export.
“The chemical that is hexachlorobenzene is a very stable chemical, which means that if it gets into the environment it will last there for a long time,” she said.
“And it is highly toxic to humans. If you had a lot of it, you would die.”
Ms Selvey says burning the waste is not the answer.
“What we’re doing is sending very highly toxic waste across thousands of kilometres of open ocean, which is always a risk. And, secondly, it’s to be burnt in Denmark using outdated technology,” she said.
“There is technology available that is feasible to be introduced into Australia that can deal with this type of waste in a safe way.”
The 16,000 tonnes of toxic waste was created between 1964 and 1991.
It is a by-product of solvents made by a company called ICI that was bought by Orica.
The first 3,000 tonnes of the waste was to be loaded onto a ship at Botany Bay in Sydney this weekend.
Greenpeace activists celebrated by climbing onto the containers in Sydney and painting slogans like “toxic shame” on the shipment.
But Orica spokesman John Fetter says the company is disappointed at the last minute postponement.
“But of course we will work with the Danish government and the Australian Government to see where the issue will go,” he said.
“The Danish minister [Karen] Ellemann in Denmark has indicated that she intends to have a discussion with the Australian minister and we’ll wait for the outcome of that.”
Meanwhile, Mr Fetter rejects Greenpeace’s assertions about the Danish plant.
“It’s easy for people to make grandiose statements. These are state-of-the-art plants,” he said.
“The United Nations through the Stockholm Convention, which is a convention trying to get rid of chemicals such as this, clearly states that high temperature incineration is an acceptable, environmentally sound method for destroying this waste.”
Mr Fetter says it would be unfeasible to build a plant in Australia to dispose of the waste.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with finance. Our waste requires to be mixed with other wastes in order for it to be destroyed and Australia just does not produce enough other waste to build a plant that would be able to destroy the waste,” he said.
PM had an interview with Environment Minister Tony Burke but he is yet to respond.