Stop exporting waste or face prosecution, EA warns

Activities to identify illegal electronic waste exporters are being stepped up, the Environment Agency (EA) has said in a statement this week.

The announcement came after a report revealed that approximately 23,000 tonnes of waste was being shipped to non-OECD countries in the Far East, the Indian sub-continent, West Africa and China, without the correct authorisation from the EA.

It is vital that waste exporters know what the rules are and comply with them, the agency said, otherwise they will face prosecution.

Under current rules, no waste, including electrical or electronic, should be sent abroad for disposal. Waste electronic equipment destined for minor repair may be exported but must first be authorised by the EA.

It is illegal to send any hazardous waste, including hazardous electrical or electronic waste, to a non-OECD or developing country for disposal or recovery.

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

The report, which was compiled to help target investigative and enforcement work by EA officers, clearly shows that companies in England and Wales are either unaware of the rules, or are simply ignoring them.

But Ms Parkes insisted that the EA was determined to detect and crack down on illegal export activity in the UK, by:

  • Setting up a dedicated special enforcement team that will step up the number of random inspection carried out at ports across England and Wales and prosecute offenders where there is evidence of illegal activity
  • Playing a lead role in European projects involving clampdowns at 25 ports across 12 EU countries
  • Working closely with both HM Customs and Excise in the UK and through the European network of regulators (IMPEL) to share information and intelligence on illegal trade in waste across the whole of Europe

    One of the main aims of the regulations is to prevent shipments of environmentally harmful wastes and residues to countries that do not have the provisions to deal with them.

    By Jane Kettle

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