UK plastic waste burnt in open fires in Poland
When the fire took hold of the rubbish dump in an industrial area outside Warsaw, the column of dense, black smoke was visible from more than 30 miles away.
Firefighters from the town of Zgierz, 80 miles southwest of the Polish capital, fought the blaze for hours as tons of soot and toxins were sent high into the atmosphere on a vortex of super-heated air, carpeting the surrounding countryside.
It is now two months since the last flames were extinguished at Zgierz, but as the Telegraph approached the site the astringent stench of scorched plastic was still overwhelming, catching in the throat and nostrils.
Up close, mounds of melted plastic bottles and bags are still heaped along the skyline, while the surrounding warehouses have melted into twisted clumps of metal, a testament to the extraordinary heat generated by the fire.
Unfortunately, the Zgierz inferno was no one-off – there have been more than 60 similar fires in Poland in recent months – and most disturbing of all, it was fuelled, at least in part, by plastic from British households.
After China banned the import of plastic for recycling last January, the UK now sends some 12,000 tons of plastic to Poland every year to be recycled through a system that is mired by corruption and demonstrably inadequate for the task.