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Cutting down on e-waste and making WEEE work

Just seen this in from IT charity Computer AId which takes old PCs from UK companies and refurbishes them for the developing world.The organisation has launched a petition calling on the government to give the Environment Agency enough funds to be able to police the WEEE supply chain effectively - and fight dumping of e-waste in developing countries.

Just seen this in from IT charity Computer AId which takes old PCs from UK companies and refurbishes them for the developing world.

The organisation has launched a petition calling on the government to give the Environment Agency enough funds to be able to police the WEEE supply chain effectively - and fight dumping of e-waste in developing countries.

“The Environment Agency must be provided with the resources to police e-waste, prosecute anyone involved in a supply chain that results in the dumping of e-waste and remove licences from organisations in breach of the WEEE legislation," says Louise Richards, chief executive of Computer Aid.

Apparently the Environment Agency has had its funding cut by up to a third over recent years and just doesn't have the man-power to either make sure vendors are complying with WEEE or to inspect shipments that are supposed to be legitimate containers of re-used PCs for the developing world but can be just be e-waste destined for scrap heaps and child labour in countries such as India.

"It’s imperative that the government clamps down on fraudulent traders posing as legitimate re-use and recycling organisations, who are enticing unwitting UK businesses to use them for disposal of electrical equipment," says Louise Richards, chief executive of Computer Aid.

Computer Aid also highlights how it thinks existing legislation is failing to hold manufacturers to account if their products are found dumped in developing countries. Tony Roberts, founder and director of International Programmes, says producers/vendors need to take responsibility for the products they are placing into the global market.

“Under the Producer Pays principle of the WEEE directive, producers of electrical equipment are responsible for funding the end of life recycling of equipment within the European Union, but no such legislation exists for the millions of electronic products sold in Africa, Latin America and Asia," says Roberts.

"Producers should be made to accept the producer pays principle on a global scale, and take responsibility for the safe recycling of products in developing countries. They must also consider the design of their products and reduce their use of hazardous substances in the manufacturing process, so they can be more easily recycled," he adds.

Computer Aid claims it has refurbished more than 130,000 PCs and laptops in it ten year history which are being used to support e-learning, e-health, e-inclusion and e-agriculture projects in countries such as Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia.

The organisation claims that asset tracking ensures all computers can be traced to the exact hospital, school or project they are benefiting - avoiding the kind of accusations of e-waste dumping that have been leveled at some organisations that send old IT kit to the developing world.