Eleven people have been charged by a Swedish court in what is being billed as potentially the country’s worst environmental crime in half a century.
NMT Think Pink – a previously celebrated waste management company known for its trademark pink rubbish bags – is accused of illegally burying and dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of waste at 21 sites across 15 municipalities around Sweden, in what prosecutors described as a “very serious crime”.
Harmful levels of arsenic, dioxins, lead, zinc, copper and petroleum products were found during the investigation. Three years ago, parts of Stockholm were shrouded in smoke caused by a fire in an abandoned rubbish heap run by the company.
At the centre of the case is successful entrepreneur Bella Nilsson – who previously crowned herself the “queen of trash” and has since changed her name to Fariba Vancor – and her ex-husband, Thomas Nilsson.
They are accused of handling significantly more rubbish than permitted and illegal management, allegedly causing several fires and exposing nearby residents to toxic waste. All of the accused deny wrongdoing.
At a hearing at Värmland district court in Karlstad on Thursday, five people – including Vancor and Nilsson – were charged with serious environmental crime, one with aiding and abetting serious environmental crime and five with environmental crime.
Court documents show that the five charged with serious environmental crime were accused of managing waste “in a way that caused or could cause pollution that was or had been harmful to human health, animals or plants”.
They are accused of storing waste “at various properties in Sweden unsorted, crushed, ground and/or without adequate protective measures”, transporting it between properties and burying waste or using it as filler material, wrapping it in bales and relinquishing control over the waste.
Senior prosecutor Anders Gustafsson said the preliminary investigation, which is 45,000 pages long, “is the largest environmental crime in Sweden in terms of scope and organisation”.
The trial is expected to take several weeks and involve an estimated 150 witnesses.
An investigation into eco-crime is also under way. Senior prosecutor Linda Schön said that at one site alone, 48,000 tonnes of waste had been stored.
“The scary thing about environmental toxins is that many times we don’t see the effects immediately, but it is the next generation that has to pay the price,” she said.
According to an estimate by the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, at least 200,000 tonnes of waste have allegedly been dumped by the company, though the true amount could potentially be much higher.
Think Pink is accused of carrying out Sweden’s worst environmental crime since the company BT Kemi buried barrels of poison in southern Sweden in the 70s.