The illegal export of WEEE - a statement by Recycling Lives

As a Queen’s Award-winning commercial recycler with a reputation for high standards and integrity, Recycling Lives echoes the condemnation of the illegal export of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

A shocking exposé by the BBC’s Panorama programme, entitled “Track my Trash” and broadcast on the 16th of May, showed how many broken and untested WEEE items find their way to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.

Many items of WEEE, such as television and computer screens, contain components and substances that are highly toxic and pose a real threat to human health and the environment if not dealt with in the correct manner. A number of organisations within the WEEE sector, such as Viridor and the Environmental Services Association, have already stepped forward to lend their full support to the exposé.

David Allen, strategic development manager at the Recycling Lives FPD processing plant commented: 

“We were disappointed to discover that a number of UK companies are still engaging in the illegal export of e-waste with their actions being highlighted nationally to the detriment of the industry.

“Any organisation that handles, transports, stores or processes waste electrical and electronic products has a duty to ensure that they are fully compliant with all of the associated legislation and that their auditing process is thorough and transparent. Steps need to be taken to protect the environment and the health of those coming into contact with WEEE. The illegal export of WEEE also damages the integrity of organisations that spend considerable time and money making sure their practices are legally, environmentally and ethically correct. 

“We echo the sentiments expressed by BBC Panorama and the many reputable UK companies who deal with WEEE in the right manner: the export of broken, damaged and untested WEEE is categorically unacceptable and we welcome any steps to prevent this practice from continuing.”

Recycling Lives handles a large volume of WEEE each week and has recently opened one of England’s first flat panel display unit processing centres.

The centre, which cost over £250,000 to develop, comprises sophisticated technology, mercury testing equipment and a sealed mercury cabin, in which the air is fully replaced every 60 seconds and staff members are rotated regularly. The hazard potential presented by damaged WEEE requires a no less stringent approach and the company has been careful to seek advice from a wide range of sources and to ensure that the centre is fully health and safety compliant.

The safe disposal of waste is a responsibility that falls to businesses and home-owners alike. While Recycling Lives’ WEEE disposal division deals directly with companies, the organisation does offer a safe WEEE disposal solution to homeowners via its Bulky Waste service. The service allows householders to book a collection for their unwanted furniture, white goods and electrical, which are then recycled in an environmentally responsible way.