Illegal Export of Electronic Waste

Illegal Export of Electronic Waste

Hazardous Waste being dumped

An environmental watchdog revealed that toxic electronic hazardous waste being dumped in recycling plants by some UK and European businesses and individuals is being illegally exported into developing countries.

The US-based Basel Action Network (BAN) placed trackers on many hundreds of electronic devices delivered to recycling facilities across ten different European countries between 2015 and 2017. Some devices were tracked to Africa and as far away as Asia.

What’s the big issue?

If not properly treated, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) including hazardous waste. Which contains toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and flame retardants. Can leak out into the environment, potentially putting humans and wildlife at risk.

The 1989 Basel Convention was signed by the EU to stop the export of toxic waste to developing countries. Which are generally less equipped to recycle it. This international treaty was created to limit the movement of hazardous WEEE among nations, especially to less developed ones.

The practise has been banned by the European bloc.

What was the report’s conclusion?

The BAN discovered that 19 of the 314 tracked units it studied were exported from their country of origin. 11 of them went to developing nations, more than half the total.

According to BAN, these exports are “highly probable to be illegal.” The exports were legal because the eight other trackers were located in EU member states.

The UK was found to be the worst offender of all the countries that were surveyed, with five devices being shipped to non-EU countries.

Waste destination?

The countries where this illegal toxic electronic waste were sent to include: Nigeria, Ghana and Hong Kong. Also as well as Pakistan, Tanzania, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Thailand. More than a third of the 19 EU-exported goods were sent to Africa.

Although nineteen might not seem like a lot, extrapolation by the BAN shows that 352,474 metric tons of e-waste are exported each year from EU countries to developing countries.

“Truly terrifying”

Jim Puckett, director of BAN, described the EU’s “leakage”, which is the illegal export of waste, as “truly terrifying.”

He added, “But worse of all is the fact we have seen the European Union make moves in recent months. Over the years to undo its leadership role in protecting countries’ interests from the scourge hazardous waste dumping.”

The EU Commission stated in a statement sent to Euronews that the bloc’s WEEE export rules “are very strict”. That the EU is constantly working to improve their implementation.

It continued, “Enforcement is a priority. This is evident in the fact waste-related crime was recognised as an EU priority within our overall policy of organised crime for 2018-2020.”

Legislation upheld?

It was also noted that EU legislation has been in force since 2003 to limit the use of hazardous chemicals in electronic devices, and “support its environmentally sound waste management”

Fixed Asset Disposal actively complete regular due diligence with our suppliers. This includes downstream vendors with regards to managing their commitment to WEEE recycling. We complete a yearly review and site visit to ensure that the suppliers we deal with are compliant and do what they say as per our ISO 14001 Environmental Management certification. Any company deemed to be a high risk to our policies are removed from our approved vendor list thus mitigating risk to our clients.

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