As you may have seen on Sky News or the cover of the Independent this morning, our researchers have been conducting a three-year investigation in what really happens to electronic waste. The results show that, instead of being recycled responsibly like it's supposed to be, e-waste is being disguised as second-hand goods and being shipped of to (in this case) Nigeria. There, it's sold, scrapped or illegally dumped.
Acting on a tip-off, we launched our operation in collaboration with Sky Television to see just where some electronic waste was ending up. We 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.
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.View the Following The E-Waste narrated
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Thousands of old electronic goods and components leave the EU for Africa and other destinations in the developing world every day, despite regulations prohibiting the trade in e-waste. 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.
Nigeria, like Ghana, Pakistan, India and China, is just one of many destinations that Europe, the United States, Japan, South Korea and other developed countries are using as toxic e-waste dumping grounds. For years, we’ve been exposing the mountains of e-waste that show up on the doorstep of developing countries at the expense of people and the environment.
The poorest people, in many cases children, are put to work breaking apart TVs, mobile phones, game consoles and other electronic items that arrive in their tonnes. With no safety measures, they are exposed to highly toxic chemicals, including mercury, which damages the brain; lead, which can damage reproductive systems; and cadmium, which causes kidney damage.
So what's the answer? First of all, companies can make sure their goods are free from hazardous components. We also need them to take full responsibility for the safe recycling of their products and put an end to the growing toxic e-waste dumps across the developing world. And we need companies to introduce voluntary take-back schemes and remove hazardous substances from their products so they can be recycled safely and easily.