Providing a collection and recycling service for Clients.
Managing Hazardous Wastes for Clients since 2005.
Providing Consultancy, mitigating risk to the Envionment, Improving CSR.
As with other sectors of the waste and recycling industry, the WEEE (waste electronics) sector, involves some level of organised crime. This relates in part to the export of waste, shipping it from UK ports to international destinations, under the guise of working equipment destined for re-use. Unfortunately, the majority of this waste is beyond re-use and provides the feedstock for international environmental crime.
UK Centric Crimes:
A number of raids carried out by the Environment Agency highlighted the illegal trade in hazardous electronic and computer waste, with the majority of non-working, totally obsolete equipment being destined for Africa. Some 500 container loads were seized on 2 sites located around London.
Developing countries have historically been the dumping ground for a lot of the UKs waste, particularly wastes that would cost more to recycle than the value of the materials that can be recovered. When it comes to waste electronics, this is even more evident, with equipment that is too old and can’t be repaired being packaged up in containers and sent abroad.
As highlighted in a statement by the Environment Agency, "We have found that the majority of this equipment is beyond repair and is being stripped down under appalling conditions in Africa. But the law is clear – electrical waste must be recycled in the UK, not sent to developing countries in Africa where unsafe dismantling puts human health and the environment at risk. The Environment Agency has created a national team, backed by ex police officers from the CID, to stamp out this illegal trade. Strong intelligence work resulted in the latest operation – the most significant action to date in investigating suspected electrical waste being shipped to Africa."
A changing Trade:
The trade, which to date has been underpinned by the illegal trans-continental shipping of hazardous, faulty and obsolete electrical and electronics waste may be changing in the UK. Evidence of the size of the trade has finally become headline news. However, the export of end-of-life electronics offers a quick, lucrative solution for many of the smaller operators in the UK and is constantly evolving and changing with the flow of waste moving around the world.
How it Works:
The equipment, which is loaded into a container without even being tested, let alone examined, is shipped to China, Ghana and India at a cost that typically leaves the end-buyer out-of-pocket. At the same time, it leaves businesses and householders in the UK open to fraud through the mining of data left on PCs, Laptops, servers, mobile phones and tablets.
Unfortunately, if the industry is to “clean up it’s act”, it’ll be at the expense of the businesses wanting to recycle their old equipment. The use of waste processors who lack licenses or infrastructure is a potential indicator of involvement in the export sector. Paying to have your waste recycled is one way that you can ensure it will be properly recycled and that your data will be effectively eradicated. The other option is to Audit the contractor prior to employing it, requesting references, copies of their licenses, OPRA scoring report and even carrying out a site visit.
About the Author: Richard Anthony Johnson
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