Brussels — According to current statistics and expert estimations, of the 9 million tonnes of electronic waste generated annually in the European Union, only 3 million tonnes are properly treated and reported. The remaining 6 million tonnes of e-waste, also known as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), is unaccounted for. Some of this WEEE gets transported to unregulated recycling facilities in the developing world, where improper processing techniques can result in environmental pollution, negative health effects and the loss of valuable resources.
The Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT) Project, a two-year research and development project funded by the European Commission, seeks to better understand and identify these avenues in order to stem this flow. Launched in September 2013, the CWIT Project consortium consists of seven partner organizations: INTERPOL, Compliance and Risks Ltd., Cross-border Research Association, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), United Nations University (UNU), WEEE Forum, and Zanasi & Partners. The objective of the CWIT project is to create a set of recommendations for the European Commission, the WEEE industry and law enforcement agencies to assist them in countering the illegal trade.
During its first year, the project sought to identify answers to some key questions, including what legal framework exists within Europe and at the international level to govern WEEE, what volume of WEEE is generated, what actors and modi operandi are involved in the trade and how organized is the structure of these activities. The most recent CWIT meeting was held at the INTERPOL General Secretariat in Lyon, France, on 16 and 17 October 2014. Preliminary findings of the first year of the project were shared by the project partners with external experts for their feedback and recommendations.
The CWIT research results thus far have started to identify gaps in the legal, administrative and law enforcement infrastructure which, if addressed, could help prevent the illegal trade in WEEE. Violations of WEEE export regulations involve multiple actors ranging from WEEE dealers and brokers to treatment facilities.
Attendees at the meeting highlighted the difficulties posed by variations in WEEE compliance and penalty regimes across the European Union and abroad, as well as the need for a coordinated response to the growing scope of illegal WEEE activities. Improving the system of monitoring and penalties across the entire product lifecycle and raising public awareness could drastically reduce the profitability of the illegal WEEE trade.
As the CWIT research continues in its second year, the consortium partners intend to focus on the weaknesses in the WEEE supply chain and on formulating recommendations to improve compliance.
The progress of the project can be followed at cwitproject.eu.
Source: Countering WEEE Illegal Trade Project