Raid on suspected illegal WEEE exports

09 June 2009

Environment Agency enforcement officers have raided two sites in East London and in Essex in order to prevent the suspected illegal export of electrical waste from the UK.

More than 100 personnel took part in the Environment Agency-led operation, which was supported by officers from the Metropolitan and Essex Police service.

Following an intelligence-led investigation, Environment Agency teams swooped on almost 500 storage and shipping containers at an industrial site in Rainham, East London and at a farm near Upminster, Essex. Around 50 people were questioned before Environment Agency officers began searching containers, gaining access using bolt-cutters and steel grinders.

Many containers were found packed with waste electrical and electronic equipment, such as old TVs, computer monitors and fridges; suspected of being destined for Africa.

National Enforcement Service Project Manager Chris Smith, said: "The Environment Agency is stepping up efforts to stop electrical waste being illegally sent abroad. Our investigations have found that the majority of this equipment is beyond repair and is being stripped down for raw materials under appalling conditions in Africa. But the law is clear; electrical waste must be recycled in the UK, not sent to developing countries in Africa where unsafe dismantling puts human health and the environment at risk.”

Stop notices were placed on shipping containers, preventing them from being moved. Environment Agency officers will gather evidence at the two sites to determine the source of the electrical waste.

Over six million electrical items are discarded by people in the UK every year, which equates to over one million tonnes of waste; enough to fill Wembley Stadium at least six times.

The Environment Agency is hopeful that this raid will lead to charges being brought under Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations. Anyone found guilty of exporting waste abroad illegally is facing a maximum two years in jail and an unlimited fine. The Environment Agency can also pursue profits from criminal activity under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Metropolitan Police made one arrest on immigration matters.

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