UK losing out as precious metal waste shipped abroad

The Government has been urged to put a halt to the export of recoverable precious metals as a review of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) legislation draws closer.

The call has come from the environmental arm of precious metals company the Stephen Betts Group, Betts Environmental, which claims the UK has both the infrastructure and expertise to recover precious metals and return them to the national supply chain.

Despite this, according to Betts Environmental, businesses are continuing to export these valuable materials to the Far East.

Not only does this represent a huge financial loss to the British economy, but companies are also missing out on a significant revenue stream because they are simply not aware of the value of their waste.

Betts Environmental claims that current requirements of WEEE legislation, has left the value chain open to abuse.

This is because it dictates disposal down a dedicated route but does not require the recovery and recycling of materials, allowing export companies to reclassify waste materials as products to avoid any further controls.

In a statement the company said: “Not only is the UK losing vast amounts of money by allowing the export of WEEE to the Far East, but we are also propping up a practice with notoriously poor governance levels – how can a waste management contractor be certain that the materials are being recovered in a safe working environment and not causing harm to communities or the local environment?”

Betts Environmental points out that the scrap metal business is transforming from a “cash in hand” operation into a legitimate resource recovery industry and argues that the Government’s focus should now turn to precious metals.

It believes that companies should be demanding the recovery of precious metals from their waste, with a full audit trail and the return of revenue to the customer.

The company said: “Current practice moves the problem of waste from one place to another; results in unregulated and dangerous working conditions abroad; prevents UK industry from benefiting from a circular resource use approach; and means British companies are losing out on potentially significant revenue streams.”

Conor McGlone

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