GB No. 2(17)/95


For several years the Environmental Fund "Silesia" in Katowice has been granting awards for the most effective schemes in favour of environmental protection in the Katowice voivodship. In this year three awards were presented: one of them went to, and deservedly so, Mr. Wieslaw Żądło, who authored and implemented the idea of selected waste collection in Poland. The award was also granted to the joint venture partnership POLHO for building the Post-Flotation Waste Enrichment Utility in Czerwionka-Leszczyny. The utility processes waste generated during mechanical working of coal to convert it into a concentrate of low sulphur content used in energy industry, cement industry and coke engineering.

Although avoiding waste generation is a better policy than its endless reprocessing the fact that POLHO invented the method deserves a prize. There is only one "but": POLHO is a well known environmental law-breaker.

I really would like to believe that rewarding POLHO was well-intentioned but it is just impossible that when granting the prize for five years of its activity the Fund did not known about the firm's past. POLHO was involved in exporting toxic waste from Poland and the case was described in newspapers. The local authorities of Katowice, with whom "Silesia" certainly co-operates, were certainly informed about it.

The data I cite below cast some more light on the "Silesia" award winner. The affair calls for another prize: the big diamond 'nail', used to be granted for the "most meritious" schemes for the environment.

Scheme:UTR / POLHO: ash from a waste incinerator
Type of waste:ash from a waste incinerator
Amount:over 5 000 ton
Country of origin:Germany
Receiving Countries:Poland / Belarus / Ukraine
Firm / Broker:UTR Umwelttechnologie und Recycling GmbH & Co. KG (Gladbeck); BVI Beratungs und Ververtungsgesellschaft (Gescher); POLHO
Pretext:"mining binder H" / storage
Present state:stopped

The German firm UTR (Umwelttechnologie und Recycling GmbH & Co. KG), a paretner of Ruhrkohle AG, has been dealing with toxic waste export to Central Easten Europe for many years. The last undertaking of the company was an attempt to export from Germany several thousands ton of the "mining binder" which in fact was a mixture of cement and post-incineration ash. Deliveries of the "binder" were offered to Polish Belarussian and Ukrainian companies as well as, probably, other firms from the Union of Independent States.

Although UTR did not file for a permit from the Regional Mining Office, industry inspectors recognised the toxic waste as "material suitable for industrial use". The Ministry Of Environmental Protection of Northern Westphalia and Rhineland did not oppose the waste export and did not try to impose any penalties on UTR. Such an attitude on the part of the Ministry was caused by controversies over classification of the "binder" to the correct category of toxic waste. Within the two months that the authorities needed for decision making over 18 thousand bags of the "binder" were stored in the open area in the river port of Doerpen (Emsland). Finally, the waste export was stopped by the government of Lower Saxony on 4 March 1993. The authorities of the district of Emsland have been examining whether UTR broke the law regarding water protection.

The local newspapers quoted a pilot from the river port, who claimed that in the last two years the UTR lorries had been transporting the "mining binder" from Galdbeck (Ruhr) to Central and Eastern Europe. Recently, however, the UTR decded to send the waste by river because of the increasing costs of land transport. The German company BVI (Beratungs und Ververtungsgesellschaft) organised the river transport. One of the Polish purchasers was the company "Vapol". The other buyer was the joint venture partnership POLHO from Katowice specialising in management and incineration of waste. POLHO organised deliveries of the "mining binder H" - this name was adopted for the toxic waste - to 14 coal mines in the region of Upper Silesia. In general, within several months POLHO imported and stored in Polish mines over 5,000 ton of toxic waste.

The State Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, informed by the Germans about the case, took measures to stop exportation of the "binder" to Poland. Despite pressure on the part of the mining lobby the Inspecorate managed to halt the deliveries of waste after the results of a survey conducted in Germany had shown that the "binder" had no binding properties and its content of heavy metals (e.g. lead, cadmium) seriously exceeded the legal norms.

According to the Inspectorate, UTR has already been sued in Belarus. However, the amount of waste imported to their country by UTR is still not known.

Pawel Głuszyński
Waste Prevention Association (OTZO)
Sławkowska 12, 31-014 Kraków
tel. 48/12/222264 ext.25, 48/12/222147 ext.25
fax 48/12/222264 ext.22, 48/12/222147 ext.22

reprinted from Zielone Brygady 1/95

GB No. 2(17)/95 | Contents