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EIA calls on Government to review producer compliance schemes following e-waste investigation

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is calling on the Government to conduct a complete review of the producer compliance scheme (PCS) system, following an investigation into the shipment of e-waste to developing countries.

Between mid-2009 and 2011, the EIA held undercover meetings with recycling companies and brokers of e-waste, as well as tracking TVs placed in civic amenity sites operated by waste management company Environmental Waste Controls (EWC) in Croydon and Merton, south London. According to the EIA, both TVs surfaced in Africa.

In its report System Failure: The UK’s Harmful Trade in Electronic Waste, the EIA has made a number of recommendations to clamp down on the level of e-waste illegally transported to other countries.

These included:

  • Ensuring continued funding for the Environment Agency to “develop its intelligence-led enforcement approach”
  • Conducting a full review of the PCS to reduce the number of such schemes
  • Reviewing contracts between local authorities and PCSs to ensure the infrastructure is in place to carry out recycling
  • Centralise the right to award PCS contracts to central Government

EIA senior campaigner Fin Walravens said: “Our work clearly demonstrates the UK’s failure to take its environmental responsibility seriously. Our e-waste is not a new problem and it isn’t going away. It’s time for the Government and enforcement agencies to give this issue the resources and attention it warrants.”

A statement by EWC said: “In the report, EIA highlights an investigation which has discovered that waste electronic equipment deposited at a designated collection facility managed by our company has been exported by a third party to countries in West Africa in contravention of the Waste Electrical and Electronic (WEEE) Resources Regulations 2006.

“This is unacceptable. EWC has put in place measures to prevent a reccurrence of this practice and to undertake a full investigation in co-operation with the regulator and relevant authorities. We have instructed all our subcontractors that no electronic equipment deposited at designated collection facilities operated by EWC should leave the UK until further notice.

“EWC has acted in good faith with regard to its duty of care in auditing and monitoring the contractual arrangements it has with a registered and accredited operator of a WEEE compliance scheme and their sub-contracted authorised and approved treatment facilities. However, through the undercover work commissioned by the EIA, it has revealed transgressions in the practices of third parties in contravention of WEEE regulations.

“EWC supports the findings of the EIA report and believes that the waste industry the regulator and the Government should carefully consider the recommendations. The company has offered to meet the EIA to offer our support.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Both of the companies dealing in huge re use tonnage from house hold waste site held full approved authorised treatment facility license. This means they would have been audited by the environment agency, independent auditors and multiple producer compliance schemes. None of these people managed to spot any wrong doing which is shocking and fundamentally flawed. Local authorities must take more interest in the flow of hazardous waste from their public sites. We pay local authorities and also pay during the purchase of new electrical goods and yet child labour in Africa is abused to recycle our waste. I am not comfortable with that. Being a resident in south London this episode will effect how I vote.

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