Brazil is to lodge a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over an alleged illegal shipment of UK toxic waste, its government has said.
Environment Agency officers and police in Britain raided three properties in the Swindon area of Wiltshire this week, arresting men aged 24, 28 and 49. They want 1,400 tonnes of waste from 99 containers returned for inspection.
Brazil says at least two held waste like syringes and condoms - possibly breaching waste movement codes.
Its complaint will be based on the Basel Convention, which bans shipments of toxic waste from industrialised nations, Brazil's foreign ministry said in a statement. It wants the origin of the containers traced and to find out how they ended up in three Brazilian ports - Santos, near Sao Paulo, and two others in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The Environment Agency said it could not confirm claims the shipping containers held a mixture of household and clinical waste. It said it plans to search through the rubbish once it has been returned to the UK and ensure it is handled and disposed of properly.
Head of waste Liz Parkes said the arrests marked "significant progress" in the investigation and that the agency was arranging for the waste to be shipped back to the UK. She said: "The Environment Agency enforces the export of recyclable waste from England and Wales, and will not hesitate to prosecute any company or individuals found to have breached the strict laws on the export of waste. The United Kingdom has taken a strong global lead to stamp out the illegal waste trade, in order to protect people and the environment."
Waste can be sent abroad for recycling, but it is illegal to export it for disposal. The maximum penalty for illegally exporting waste is an unlimited fine or two years in prison. For legal reasons, the three men arrested cannot be identified.
Roberto Messias, president of the Brazilian environment agency, Ibama, has said Brazil is "not a big rubbish dump of the world".
I know some people got really mad over this, but lol at this whole thing. Sure, dump your used condoms in Brazil and Ghana, we should be familiar with the material.