Police officers and Environment Agency staff raided two sites in what they called the ‘most significant action to date’ in stopping the suspected illegal export of electrical waste from the UK.

More than 100 people took part in the Environment Agency-led operation which was supported by officers from the Metropolitan and Essex Police service. The raids took place on 5 June 2009.

Following an intelligence-led investigation officers swooped on almost 500 storage and shipping containers at an industrial site in Rainham, east London and at a farm near Upminster, Essex.

Around 50 people were questioned before Environment Agency officers began searching containers, gaining access using bolt-cutters and steel grinders.

Many containers were found packed with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) – such as old TVs, computer monitors and fridges – suspected of being destined for Africa.

Chris Smith, national enforcement service project manager, said: “The Environment Agency is stepping up efforts to stop electrical waste being illegally sent abroad.

“Our investigations have found the majority of this equipment is beyond repair and is being stripped down for raw materials under appalling conditions in Africa.

“But the law is clear – electrical waste must be recycled in the UK, not sent to developing countries in Africa where unsafe dismantling puts human health and the environment at risk.”

Luke Walsh

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