China’s decision in 2018 to ban imports of certain types of waste generated a global tsunami of trash, as exporters of rubbish scrambled to find alternative dumping grounds.

Romania, Poland and Bulgaria have since become hotspots for the multi-billion-euro illegal waste businesses, this cross-border investigation reveals.

Much of the rubbish that is dumped in those countries comes from fellow EU states such as France, Italy and Germany, where mountains of non-hazardous and hazardous waste regularly vanish from the legal market.

With support from the IJ4EU fund’s Freelancer Support Scheme, the investigation showed that the illegal waste market has an estimated value of 3.7 to 15.5 billion euros a year, with the most profitable businesses being non-hazardous waste.

Germany, the most industrialised EU state, emerges as the top source country for recycling. Thousands of tonnes of illegal waste are shipped from there to Romania.

The team has set up a special project microsite and released a documentary in several languages. See below for links to the stories in English, Romanian, German, Spanish and Arabic.

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