Posted March 3rd, 2011 by Stephen Roper

A recent 3 year investigation by the UK Environment Agency has found that criminal gangs have been shipping thousands of tons of e-waste and dumping it in third world countries.

The investigation found that as many as 30 criminal gangs were shipping items such as computers and TV monitors and dumping them on rubbish tips in Africa, Asia and the Far East. Most electrical items are no longer allowed on UK rubbish tips.

Many shipments of thousands of electrical goods were intercepted by the Environment Agency. Had they got to landfill sites abroad they would have leaked many poisonous chemicals into the soil.

When mobile phones and computers do make it to rubbish tips in Africa children are often paid to collect the precious metals from the circuit boards. Many substances that are collected from rubbish tips are later melted down to make bullets.

Sarah Chare from the UK Environment Agency said “The UK’s reputation for being environmentally friendly is being destroyed by criminal gangs who are only interested in making money and don’t care about the effect they are having on the environment.”

The court date for the UK’s biggest investigation into the exportation of electronic waste (e-waste) has recently been also set by the Judge for the 17th October 2011.

In the case, 14 individuals and companies have been accused of exporting illegal e-waste to developing countries.

The defendants some of which have pleaded not guilty or have chosen not to plead at this time, all face charges related to the European Waste Shipment Regulations 2006 and the Trans frontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007.

Environment Agency Enforcement Officer, Sarah Chare said “This is a crucial investigation and the first intelligence led case of it’s kind.” She added “There are clear environmental consequences of dumping computers and monitors abroad. It also has security implications for businesses such as criminals accessing data that has not been properly wiped off machines.”

Eleven people from four UK companies appeared in court last week accused of exporting waste electronic and electrical equipment to developing countries including West Africa.

The eleven people attended the bail hearing at Havering Magistrates Court in Essex to give their names and confirm their bail status. All defendants will return to court on the 26th January 2011 to submit their pleas.

The case is the biggest Environment Agency investigation into illegal electrical waste exports to date. All parties stand accused of being involved in the exportation of waste electrical and electronic items with charges under the Trans-frontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 and European Waste Shipment Regulations 2006.

The four companies facing charges are Orient Export Limited and Reliance Export Limited from Essex, BJ Electronics UK Limited from Greater London and Thorn International UK Limited from Birmingham.

The law states that no hazardous waste electrical equipment such as TVs, fridges and PCs are to be sent abroad for recycling and disposal as they can contain harmful substances such as mercury and lead.

A recent 2 year investigation by the Environment Agency found that a network of individuals and waste companies based in the UK are making huge sums of money by exporting waste to developing countries rather than recycling it in the UK.

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