Brazil has returned to the United States 46.6 tons of hospital waste that had been intercepted last October in the northeastern state of Pernambuco by customs agents, the Freight Terminal at the port of Suape said Sunday.

The waste was shipped to the U.S. port of Charleston, South Carolina, on board a cargo vessel that set sail Saturday evening from Suape, a municipality near Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, the official in charge of the port's freight operations, Fernando Lucato, told reporters.

The hospital waste cargo consists of sheets, pillowcases, towels, used syringes, various hospital masks and tubes bearing the logos of U.S. hospitals.

However, authorities are investigating why some sheets with the logos of those hospitals wound up being resold in Recife, where some of those items were confiscated.

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In October, customs authorities intercepted the 46.6 tons of hospital waste coming from the United States and confiscated another 14 containers containing 15 tons of "suspicious" materials, in operations conducted at the port of Suape.

The shipments came from a single exporter in South Carolina and were being sent to a textile company suspected of violating the national waste policy, which prohibits the importation of trash from other countries, according to Anvisa, Brazil's national health monitoring agency.

In the import documentation for the containers, the shipment is described as being defective cotton fabric.

In recent years, Brazilian authorities have intercepted many containers coming from Europe and filled with domestic waste at their ports, and their habitual practice has been to return those shipments to their ports of origin.

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