A total of 21 waste containers illegally exported to Sri Lanka has been brought back to England.
Local authorities found the containers – which were shipped to Sri Lanka in 2017 – held illegal materials, described as mattresses and carpets, which had been exported for reuse.
Environment Agency (EA) enforcement officers in England will now seek to confirm the types of waste illegally shipped and who exported it.
Those responsible could face a custodial sentence of up to two years, an unlimited fine and the recovery of money and assets gained through the course of their criminal activity.
In 2018/19, the Environment Agency prevented nearly 13,000 tonnes of waste from leaving England, which were destined for illegal export around the world.
Officers work closely with Border Force, HMRC, police forces and environmental regulators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to target and disrupt those who try to export waste illegally to other countries.
Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency said: “We are determined to stop this illegal trade and we have officers inspecting waste shipments at ports across England every day. Wherever we find illegal activity, we stop the waste being exported.
“There are stringent international rules in place to stop contaminated waste being shipped to unsuspecting countries which could harm their citizens and the environment and we will be thoroughly investigating this consignment to track down those responsible. Producers of waste should make sure it does not get handed illegally by their contractors – out of sight should not be out of mind.
“Those exporting waste should be under no illusion – if we find waste being shipped illegally then we will take action.”