In that the content of a consignment needs to be described, the system may appear simple, but a grey area has been created over when a piece of equipment is deemed as reusable.
Environment Agency (EA) policy advisor (producer responsibility) Adrian Harding said: An issue has been created with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and ELV parts leaving for other EU countries such as Poland and to West Africa. These are in some cases described as second hand goods, but may in fact be waste.
Containers are packed full of parts and there is no evidence they are working properly. At the other end these will be cleaned, tested and some will be reused. But what will happen to those that cant be?
There could be dumping, open burning or oil drawing out everywhere while lead acid batteries could also be contained. There needs to be a certainty of reuse or at least a reasonable prospect of this.
Harding suggests it is job lots which are creating the biggest concerns, consignments containing both working components and waste. And problems are not only caused in the receiving country, but processors and operators in the UK are being deprived of business, with the EA given the task of finding the source.
Loads can be intercepted in intermediate countries such as Holland, at the destination or in the UK. Then it needs to be ascertained who is involved be it one of the 1,200 licensed operators or an illegal entity. But Harding stressed that while the EA tries to clamp down; it is the morality of the operator which will have the biggest influence.
There is a lot of sensitivity surrounding countries such as the UK which produce a lot of waste and there is a quite legitimate market for it. But this relies on people describing material correctly. Unfortunately, this leaves scope for unscrupulous people to be involved also, he added.