Tour de France faces protest over Orica's toxic waste export from Australia
Friday's stage passes destination of 15,000 tonnes of banned fungicide
The Tour de France may find itself blocked by protesters later this week as French environmentalists plan to target the race over Australian chemical company Orica’s plans to export toxic waste to France for incineration.
Orica – title sponsor of the Orica-GreenEdge team - plans to ship its stockpile of hexachlorobenzene to the town of Salaise-sur-Sanne in the Rousillon area, where it will be incinerated.
Friday’s stage 13 of the Tour passes just a few kilometres north of Salaise-sur-Sanne on its way from Saint-Etienne to the mountain top finish of Chamrousse. Protesters have told French newspapers this stage is likely to be the target of a protest, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Environmental groups have long opposed the shipping out of Australia of hexachlorobenzene, which is a by-product of the manufacture of other chemical products.
Hexachlorobenzene was formerly used as a fungicide but is banned globally under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. It has been shown to cause cancer in animals, is considered a probable carcinogen in humans and is highly toxic to aquatic organisms.
Environmental groups have long opposed the export of hexachlorobenzene from Australia. Groups including Doctors for the Environment Australia, Friends of the Earth, the Nature Conservation Council, The National Toxics Network, and Greenpeace Australia recently wrote to Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt to urge that the waste be destroyed in Australia.
The groups argued that destruction technologies are available and could be set up in Australia and said that Australia has an obligation under international conventions to destroy its own toxic waste.
“These have the potential to destroy the HCB waste in a way that achieves a far better environmental outcome than incineration. Treatment in Australia also avoids most of the risks associated with the transport of the waste across the globe,” the letter read.
According to the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority, 15,000 tones of hexachlorobenzene is stored at Orica’s plant at Botany Bay, south of Sydney.
Orica has twice before attempted to ship the waste overseas for incineration, but was prevented by brotests from moving it to Germany in 2007 and Denmark in 2010.
An Orica spokesman said the company is committed to finding a solution to the issue of the HCB stockpile at Botany.
“Orica has worked closely with the Botany [Council] and surrounding community for many years to understand issues of importance to the community. Orica is confident that the current proposal is safe, environmentally sustainable, respects Australia’s international treaty obligations and meets the community’s expectations,” the spokesman said.