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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Siobhan Chapman

Computerworld UK
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?