Underground trade in e-waste involved the UK recycler Environment Waste Controls (EWC), who say they now prevent electronic waste from their clients and from public waste collection sites in South London, from reaching West Africa via a contractor.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) published a revealing report on disposal and environmental impacts of UK generated e-waste in late May 2011.
Seven tonnes of televisions per week were sold to a contractor at about £1.75 per set. UK Waste Electrical and Electronic (WEEE) Resources Regulations allow working equipment to be exported, but waste sets were proven to be dumped in African countries.
The EIA hid tracking devices in broken and disabled television sets deposited at e-waste recycling collection sites. GPS signals led the team to an e-waste recycler in Nigeria, and to a disposal site in Ghana.
Broken electronic equipment should be recycled in the European Union, by UK law.
EWC said they have “instructed our sub contractors that no electronic equipment deposited at designated collection facilities operated by EWC should leave the UK until further notice,” reports The Guardian.
EWC runs 49 local authority waste sites and recycling depots for public and private clients. UK users generate about a million tonnes of e-waste per year. The UN said that the e-waste stream has reached 50-million tonnes worldwide. Recycling is estimated to be 10%.
E-waste handling hazards
Cellphone and computers contain some hazardous chemicals. Some cathode ray tubes from older televisions contain lead. Gases and substances are released when e-waste is stripped, handled, and disposed.
Third world waste processors usually do not use personal protective clothing (PPC) and employers are not subject to occupational health and safety enforcement.
Trade in e-waste involves criminal syndicates of brokers, ‘cherry-picking’ or the most lucrative components, transporters, and dumpers.
PHOTO; Waste televisions sets from the UK were revealed to be illegally exported to Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries, by a UK state agency. The photo was taken by the environmental NGO, Greenpeace.