US military waste in Iraq

Filed in Blog, Videos by on July 30, 2010 3 Comments
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recycleWe’ve seen the human cost of recycling in Cairo and Beijing. The third report in Al Jazeera’s eight-part series called ‘Wasteful World’ comes from Iraq where the US military has been accused of leaving behind a legacy of toxic waste.

On one waste site a man sifts through metals purchased from dismantled US military bases such as abandoned body armour and empty rocket shells with his bare hands in order to salvage steel and copper.

Separating steel and copper from landfill waste is potentially lucrative work, but it comes at a high cost to the people doing the work. They say the contactors they get the materials from never warned them it could contain harmful materials or chemicals.

Officials deny the claim but doctors say they have treated people who have had contact with hazardous materials from US bases and there are concerns about dangerous waste being processed by private contractors. Symtoms of handling these materials include painful blisters, eczema and itchy eyes.

US military and Iraqi authroties say they are aware of the improper disposal of hazardous waste and have opened an investigation into the issue; meanwhile the sites continue to operate with no safety measures in place.

US military say everyting is done to US standards and have taken journalists and Iraqi Government officals on a tour of the sites processing hazardous waste to prove that there is nothing to hide. They say chemical cleaners, paint and even soil that has come into contact with petroleum is decontaminated on site, but Iraq wants full data analysis on the effects of this waste on the surrounding areas.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (3)

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  1. the appalling practice of discarding harmful materials in the world’s back-yards demonstrates the military hubris at work. when a task is done, then, the materials should be disposed of properly, bomblets and ammunition shells, mines and barrels used in the supply of offensive tools must be de-contaminated in situ. good manners makes good neighbors…

    the same principle applies whether at home or abroad. no one appreciates the last tenant’s toxic left-overs. so why should people suffer through tons of deadly detritus after the fact? .metals and other recyclables can provide income to locals, as long as precautions are taken. good rubbish makes good friends..

  2. John says:

    This is a good piece Mrs Green. I wish President Obhama could read this. With his green policies showing signs of wear and tear due to opposition in congress blockage of his climate change bill, he could gain a lot of brownie points, by tacking the waste leftovers of American foreign policy in this part of the world. War is nasty as all sane people realise. It’s always the innocents who are left to suffer. Vietnam is still coming to terms with the massive amount of napalm dropped by American B52’s over 40 years ago. And many ex war zones still have vast areas covered in landmine’s.


  3. Mrs Green says:

    @nadine sellers: Nadine; this was another aspect of recycling I had not even considered until I saw the programme. I have learned so much in a short amount of time and I really hope I get to see the rest of the series as I think these stories need to be shared to raise our awareness of issues we might otherwise not know about.

    @John: Hi John, hey maybe President Obhama reads my blog every day – who knows? 😉

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