07 November 2010

Criminal Probe into E-Waste Exports

Reposted in full from The Environment Agency, 15 October 2010

'The Environment Agency has today charged nine people as part of the biggest investigation into illegal electrical waste exports from the UK to West Africa.

All nine have been charged with offences under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 and European Waste Shipment Regulations 2006 and bailed to attend Havering Magistrates Court on 11 November.

The law is clear that broken electricals, including everyday items such as mobiles, smart phones, laptops and TVs, cannot be sent overseas for disposal. As well as precious metals such as gold, copper and aluminium, electrical waste can contain hazardous substances including mercury and lead that are harmful to people and the environment.

There is good evidence that illegal exports of electrical waste from the UK is ending up on waste sites in Africa, causing harm to those who come into contact with it.

The Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team Manager, Andy Higham, said:

“Over the past two years painstaking intelligence work by Environment Agency officers has uncovered a web of individuals and companies that appear to be making considerable sums of money by exporting electrical waste overseas.

“Exporters of broken electricals put at risk the lives of those who work on waste sites in developing countries. These are often children who are paid a pittance to dismantle products containing hazardous waste. Illegal exporters also avoid the costs of recycling in the UK and undermine law-abiding business.

“It is always a crime to export broken electricals and hazardous waste from the UK to developing countries to be dumped. The last thing we want is our waste causing harm to people or the environment overseas.”

Officers from the Environment Agency’s National Crime Team began their investigations in mid-2008. They soon uncovered a network of individuals, waste companies and export businesses allegedly involved in the export of electrical waste.

In some instances, it is alleged that considerable sums of money changed hands in deals to collect and recycle electrical waste while treatment costs were avoided.'

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