The United Kingdom has been found to be the worst European country for illegally disposing of electronic waste. The findings showed that UK e-waste shipments went from council recycling facilities within the country to Nigeria, Tanzania and Pakistan for waste management that breaks EU law.

Worst European E-Waste Offender

The investigation that uncovered these figures was the work of the environmental watchdog the Basel Action Network (BAN). The watchdog carried out their investigation by placing GPS trackers on 314 units of electronic waste (such as IT assets, printers, monitors) from recycling facilities across ten countries. BAN’s report shows that the UK was the top offender for exporting waste to developing countries in what are suspected to be illegal shipments. Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain were also found to be exporting waste.

Exporting electronic waste to non-OECD and non-EU countries is illegal under EU law.

Using pre-existing electronic waste statistics and the figures generated by their report, BAN estimated that 352,474 metric tonnes of electronic waste was being illegally shipped to developing countries each year from the EU.

Why It Matters

Illegally exporting e-waste to developing countries is dangerous because the components of many electronic items contain toxic elements. The unsafe and non WEEE or GDPR compliant ways in which e-waste is handled and disposed of in these countries exposes the local environment and those workers handling the waster to great harm due to the toxic nature of the components. The director of the Basel Action Network, said the illegal shipments made by EU countries contribute to an unethical waste management system running “on the backs of the poor and vulnerable”

The adverse health effects of handling e-waste in an unsafe manner are well documented, with strong links to cancer, respiratory issues, shortened life span and infant mortality uncovered by multiple health and environmental bodies researching the issue.

Under GDPR, disposing of electronic items that store personal data can lead to a business having sanctions placed on them or fines being issued. This is because the methods for disposal used when e-waste is exported to developing countires leaves IT assets vulnerable to being accessed and the data being breached, putting a business’ customers, clients and employees’ data at risk.

Disposing of E-Waste (The Right Way)

To properly dispose of electronic waste items, be sure to use an ADISA accredited IT asset management company. These firms dispose of IT assets in a way that has no ill effects for workers handling the items or the environment, while being able to ensure data security to protect your business from GDPR repercussions.

Tier 1 is one of the countries few holders of the ADISA Distinction With Honours certification, offering a host of IT asset disposal and handling services, with additional CSR benefits and a strong focus on security, WEEE and GDPR compliance. To find out how we can support your business, please get in touch today.

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