The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive is failing to live up to what it originally set out to do and there is now an increase in the level of waste being exported, claims plastic and WEEE recycler Axion Recycling.
Axion Recycling director Keith Freegard said: It is clear the WEEE Directive is failing to deliver what it set out to do. The best treatment, recovery and recycling techniques should be applied to maximise material re-use and to minimise human health and the environment.
Freegard said that the WEEE Directive set out to recycle electrical waste into new products and remove hazardous material from landfill. But he said exports of untreated WEEE labelled for re-use were going to developing countries with a lack of control on disposal of unwanted material fractions, which is causing more environmental damage than putting hazardous waste in landfill.
Freegard said this is because unworkable WEEE such as computers are being recycled in extremely dangerous ways in developing countries. He said that WEEE is sometimes burned to extract valuable metals from it. Freegard said that the Government needed to make it harder to export WEEE to ensure that it was being recycled in the UK.
He said: I have become such a WEEE sceptic and I was so enthusiastic about it in the early days.
Environment Agency producer responsibility policy advisor Adrian Harding said: Last year, the UK separately collected household WEEE at a rate of 6.5kg per head of population against a target of 4kg per head of population set out in the WEEE Directive; an encouraging start.
Some working, second-hand equipment legitimately leaves the UK for reuse overseas this will usually result in social and economic benefits. We are aware that some WEEE has been shipped illegally from the UK and other EU countries to developing countries. There is no evidence that this problem has got worse following the introduction of the WEEE Regulations in the UK.
We are working closely with competent authorities overseas to identify people who deliberately mis-describe waste shipments and to find the source of that waste equipment. We will take appropriate action against anyone found to be flouting the rules.
Were working closely with Government to increase the proportion of WEEE that goes through the WEEE system. Its important that any business or public sector organisation only hands WEEE to a reputable contractor, takes steps to find out where their waste equipment ends up and seeks evidence that sensitive on redundant IT equipment has been permanently erased.
Producer compliance scheme Repic chief executive Philip Morton added: We as a country need to be more diligent in capturing the WEEE that does appear through proper routes to stop illegal exports.
Previous story, West Africa used as dumping ground for e-waste, (09/05/08)
Image: Burning e-waste