An investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has revealed that tons of e-waste from the United Kingdom has been shipped illegally in underground trade to developing countries in Africa for disposal.
Environment Waste Controls (EWC), which runs the waste and recycling for the public and private sector, has admitted that electronic equipment from one of their sites has ended up in West Africa after being exported by a third party company.
As part of their investigation, EIA staff visited waste collection sites run by EWC and learned that some of the electronic waste was being collected and shipped to Nigeria and Ghana. According to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Resources Regulations 2006, as long as the e-waste being exported were tested and deemed properly working it would be permissible to be shipped.
However, investigators hid tracking devices in television sets that were broken beyond repair and left them at the waste collection site. After a couple of weeks, GPS signals showed that one set had been exported to Nigeria, while another had been shipped to Ghana.
The EIA believes that this is not an isolated incident, and that proper checks were not always carried out. They say that the broken television sets should have been disposed of in the UK or shipped to a developed country instead of Africa.
The EWC has fully cooperated with the investigation and has given a statement saying, ”This is unacceptable and EWC has put in place measures to prevent a reoccurrence of this practice and to undertake a full investigation in cooperation with the regulator and relevant authorities. We have instructed all our sub contractors that no electronic equipment deposited at designated collection facilities operated by EWC should leave the UK until further notice.”