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Europe's police unite against waste

Ports across the UK and Europe are being targeted in a co-ordinated crackdown on the massive illegal trade in waste.

Seaport Project 2 is being run by 12 European Union member states and involves inspections and the sharing of intelligence.

It comes after Seaport Project 1 found that 20% of waste shipments in Europe between spring 2003 and summer 2004 were illegal.

A report by the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER) also showed that 23,000 tonnes of waste is illegally leaving the UK for Asia and Africa every year.

So the Environment Agency (EA) is stepping up its attempts to halt the activity and playing a big part in the Europe-wide clampdown.

EA head of waste regulation Liz Parkes said: "There is a legitimate overseas market, in Europe and beyond, for used equipment such as computers and fridges.

"For example, there is a very large demand for second-hand products in China, which, following minor repair, can be reused.

"There are strict rules, however, setting out how waste electrical equipment may be exported and where it can legally be sent.

"This [ICER] report shows companies in England and Wales are not always following the rules.

"We will tackle any illegal export activity we find and are doing so on two fronts. We have set up a special enforcement project to look at the problem in England and Wales, and internationally we are working with 11 other member states on a project that will see inspection and enforcement stepped up at 25 ports around Europe."

The EA will be working closely with customs and police forces in the UK and throughout Europe to share information and intelligence on illegal waste shipments.

The 12 nations involved in Seaport Project 2 are Belgium, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK.

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