Seventeen containers full of second-hand fridges and parts shipped by specialist recycler Environcom have been impounded by authorities in Ghana.
The country banned imports of used fridges and other electrical equipment in January following fears of toxic dumping by unscrupulous companies.
Environcom confirmed to MRW that 17 of its container loads destined for distributors in Ghana were being held at ports.
According to a local report and a story in the Guardian newspaper, Ghanaian officials accused the company of breaking import rules. Both stories were repeated on the Ghana Energy Commission’s own website. But although Environcom said the Guardian was “right to highlight this issue”, it hotly denied it had tried to flout the ban.
The company said it stopped shipments to Ghana as the ban came into place, but containers leaving the UK on time were “delayed in transit and arrived in Ghana late”. It said that some containers received before the ban had also been impounded.
Environcom said the containers were legitimate and that it was in discussions with the Ghanaian government for their release.
Chief executive Sean Feeney (pictured above) said: “Environcom does not export illegal e-waste to any country. And the only fridges we do sell for reuse in any market are non-CFC fridges so they do not contain harmful chemicals.
“In addition, Environcom has proposed only to send energy-efficient fridges to Ghana, which pass the Ghanaian energy efficiency star rating.”
The company claimed it had been the victim of a “political attempt” to derail its investment in a recycling centre in the country. It has already signed a legal agreement with a local partner that completed in September 2013 to build a recycling plant to deal with waste electrical equipment in Africa.
A company spokesman said: “The whole region has been in a stake of flux while national government elections have taken place.
“A separate number of discussions have been had in the last few months with the [Ghana] Energy Commission relating to guidelines and legislation about energy ratings and importing of fridges. Environcom is now working with the new authorities to confirm the details, and is confident that the plans to build a plant will be implemented.”
Feeney added: “There is a legitimate market for refurbished fridges in Ghana as there is a requirement by the authorities to import refurbished fridges for their home market.
“In 2009, for example, 70% of the fridges Ghana imported were second hand. Unfortunately, some rogue operators are using this legitimate second-hand market to import unsuitable e-waste and this is the practice that the Ghanaian authorities are trying to stop.”