Greenpeace: UK's tech waste dumped in Africa

'Cowboy' traders ignore WEEE directive

Investigation uncovers huge illegal dumping of British toxic waste to developing countries in Africa and Asia.

Thousands of computers and other e-waste items in Britain are being packaged into cargo containers and shipped illegally to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, despite regulations prohibiting the trade in e-waste, a joint investigation by Greenpeace, The Independent and Sky News has revealed.

In an undercover sting, Greenpeace and Sky took an unfixable TV, fitted it with a tracking device and brought it to Hampshire County Council for recycling. "Instead of being safely dismantled in the UK or Europe, like it should have been, the council's recycling company, BJ Electronics, passed it on as 'second-hand goods' and it was shipped off to Nigeria to be sold or scrapped and dumped," Greenpeace wrote in its blog.

"For the first time we were able to track the e-waste from door to door, exposing the loopholes in recycling programmes that allow illicit profits to be made by the developed world's traders by dumping their obsolete and hazardous electronics abroad instead of properly recycling them."

By law, under the European Union's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, e-waste must be dismantled or recycled by specialist contractors because of the toxic content of many electrical devices. The three-year probe found, once dumped in Africa, the computers were stripped of their raw metals by young men and children working on poisoned waste dumps.

Greenpeace said thousands of old electronic goods and components leave Europe bound for Africa and Asia every day, despite regulations. "Some will be repaired and reused, but many are beyond repair, meaning that they will eventually be dumped in places where no facilities exist for safe recycling."

Hampshire County Council has launched an inquiry into its waste sites, but insisted that it worked only with dealers who exported functioning equipment.

Computer Aid International has been gathering signatures on an online petition that protests illegal dumping of e-waste. The petition calls on the government to grant more powers and resources to the Environment Agency, in order for them to effectively police the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive.

The non-profit group said: "Cowboy traders are illegally exporting hazardous and toxic electrical waste (e-waste) out of the UK, fraudulently claiming consignments consist entirely of electrical equipment destined for productive re-use, and then dumping it in developing countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and China."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Siobhan Chapman

Computerworld UK
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?