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Leaked emails show plan for crisis centres to manage 'putrefying' rubbish after no-deal Brexit

Leaked emails show plan for crisis centres to manage 'putrefying' rubbish after no-deal Brexit
2 min read

Britain could have to stockpile "putrefying" waste if exports of rubbish seize up under a no-deal Brexit, officials have warned.


Leaked emails obtained by the Guardian warn that export licences for tonnes of waste will become invalid if the UK leaves the EU without a deal - prompting government officials to prepare crisis centres.

According to the emails, Environment Agency (EA) officials believe leaking stockpiles could cause pollution, with an EA source saying: "It could all get very ugly, very quickly."

One EA email sent on Thursday, labelled “importance: high”, said crisis centres could be running seven-days-a-week from 18 February - with plans to operate 24/7 if needed.

To explain the potential tasks facing the agency, the email said: "If there is a no-deal scenario, the current export of waste may cease for a period.

"This could result in stockpiled waste which causes licence breaches. Odours will obviously be an issue as the stockpiled waste putrefies and there may be runoff of leachates, causing secondary pollution."

The second example meanwhile warned that problems exports of livestock to the EU could seize up, with "overstocked" farmers unable to export lamb and beef leading to "problems with slurry storage capacity and insufficient land spreading capability".

The EA source told the Guardian: “The examples seem like real possibilities. There’s a serious amount of panic going on."

The findings were seized on by Mary Creagh, chair of Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.

The Labour MP said: "The UK’s waste and recycling system is already fragile but these shocking emails show it will grind to a halt if customs checks and WTO tariffs prevent the export of millions of tonnes of waste.

"No deal would be a green light to criminal fraudsters and create a public health and environmental pollution emergency. EA officials should not carry the can for the failings of government to get a deal through and this shows how hollow the prime minister’s promises were about protecting the environment if we leave the EU."

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