Help stop UK’s illegal computer dumping, government urged

The government has been told it must do more to prevent the UK's electrical waste being illegally dumped.

The government has been told it must do more to prevent the UK's electrical waste being illegally exported and dumped in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and China.

International development charity Computer Aid International has called on the government to provide the Environment Agency with the resources to police the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which came into force last year.

The charity has taken aim at "cowboy commercial traders actively abusing re-use and recycling initiatives", as well as computer manufacturers shirking responsibility for their equipment dumped in developing countries.

Louise Richards, CEO of Computer Aid, said, "National newspaper exposés and reports from both Greenpeace and Consumers International clearly demonstrate the extent of the e-waste problem, and serve to highlight the limitations of the current legislative framework for e-waste.

"In Nigeria alone, more than half a million second-hand PCs arrive in Lagos every month, yet only one in four works."

Richards said the Environment Agency must be provided with the resources to police e-waste, prosecute anyone involved in a supply chain that results in the dumping of e-waste, and remove licences from organisations in breach of the WEEE legislation.

"It is imperative that the government clamps down on fraudulent traders posing as legitimate re-use and recycling organisations, who are enticing unwitting UK businesses to use them for disposal of electrical equipment."

She said such traders do not declare the contents of their shipments as hazardous e-waste, but falsely claim consignments consist entirely of electrical equipment destined for productive re-use.

The result, she said, is that the waste is manually scavenged for metals, then stripped down and incinerated in the open air, damaging the environment and potentially harming those employed to do the scavenging and stripping - often children.

Computer Aid also highlights how existing legislation is failing to hold manufacturers to account if their products are found dumped in developing countries.

Under the "producer pays" principle of the WEEE Directive, producers of electrical equipment are responsible for funding the end of life recycling of equipment within the European Union, but no such legislation exists for the millions of electronic products sold in Africa, Latin America and Asia .

Producers should be made to accept the producer pays principle on a global scale, and take responsibility for the safe recycling of products in developing countries, said Computer Aid.

To date, Computer Aid has refurbished more than 130,000 PCs and laptops, all of which are being used to support e-learning, e-health, e-inclusion and e-agriculture projects in countries such as Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia .

Asset tracking ensures all computers can be traced to the exact hospital, school or project they are benefiting.


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