Click here to go back to News listing.October 26, 2011
On Monday (October 24) the trial of the largest WEEE export case has begun. In total seven defendants - four individuals and three companies - are being accused of illegally exporting 158 tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment from UK to Nigeria.
The trial marks the completion of what was the largest ever investigation conducted by the Environment Agency into illegal electrical waste exports. The defendants were scheduled to appear at Basildon Crown Court in Essex the past Monday (October 24) in a case being heard by His Honour Judge Black. Dubbed “Operation Boro” which investigations began in mid-2008 discovered that 11 containers of hazardous waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) were exported to Nigeria, containing a total of 158 tonnes of material.
Working electrical equipment can be exported for use overseas. However, it is always illegal to export hazardous e-waste from the UK for disposal to developing countries. Illegal exporters of e-waste undermine law-abiding recycling businesses and risk harm to human health and the environment in the recipient country.
The Environment Agency has a world class programme to prevent illegal e-waste exports to developing countries. With two teams (National Intelligence Team & National Environmental Crime Team) working together with local and international authorities the Agency has a 98 per cent success rate of finding electrical waste when stopping targeted shipping containers.
The EA’s crime team manager, Andy Higham, said: “Over the past two years painstaking intelligence work by Environment Agency officers has uncovered a web of individuals and companies that appear to be making considerable sums of money by exporting electrical waste overseas.
“Exporters of broken electricals put at risk the lives of those who work on waste sites in developing countries. These are often children who are paid a pittance to dismantle products containing hazardous waste. Illegal exporters also avoid the costs of recycling in the UK and undermine law-abiding business.
“It is always a crime to export broken electricals and hazardous waste from the UK to developing countries to be dumped. The last thing we want is our waste causing harm to people or the environment overseas.”
Those convicted of exporting e-waste illegally face up to two years in prison and or an unlimited fine. According to the Environmental Agency website there are 22 ongoing investigations into the illegal export of waste, 15 of which involve illegal WEEE exports.
After appointing a new head of waste and illegals, Mr Mat Crocker, the agency also confirmed that legal WEEE exports are a priority to reduce waste crime.