The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has estimated that up to 90 per cent of the world’s waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE), worth nearly £12 billion, is illegally traded or dumped annually, largely by companies within the European Union (EU).
The announcement came at the Conference of Parties (COP) climate event last week, in a report released by UNEP titled ‘Waste Crimes, Waste Risks: Gaps and Challenges in Meeting the Global Waste Challenge’. The report estimated that as little as 10% of all e-waste, amounting to 41 million tonnes each year, is correctly recycled.
The report attributes this waste to companies within the EU and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) opting for cheaper, and often illegal, routes as opposed to handling waste disposal responsibly. This includes exporting WEEE to less regulated, non-OECD countries with less stringent employee welfare and health and safety regulations or environmental practices. The report claims WEEE is often ‘deliberately classified as other items… to deceive law enforcement authorities’ such as second hand goods.
A key factor contributing to the prevalence of waste crime is a lack of standardised sentencing. It is felt that those caught illegally exporting WEEE are sanctioned with low fines that do not reflect the seriousness of the offences committed. Acting against this, England published guidance by the Sentencing Council (SC) last year to impose harsher sentences on those found guilty of committing waste crime, including higher fines and penalties on business in England.
The report proposes recommendations to clamp down on irresponsible disposal of e-waste, including increasing awareness of the impact of waste crime on security, people and environment; encouraging non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to expose waste crimes and build awareness of the health risks; and improving national legislation frameworks.
What challenges does your business face in the responsible disposal of WEEE? Does your business utilise a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to the disposal and recycling of WEEE? Tell us your thoughts @707RM or by commenting below. If you’re unsure of the most efficient and value for money solution to your e-waste disposal requirements, contact us for free, no obligation advice.
Photo courtesy of Curtis Palmer (Flickr).