Council fined for dumping WEEE

Hi-tech rubbish finds its way to “unauthorised” recyclers.

Computer rubbish

A UK council has been fined for allowing TVs and other electronic goods to be taken from its waste disposal sites and sold on.

Plymouth City Council was fined 8,000, plus 3,742 in costs, following a case bought by the Environment Agency.

Local firms which were not authorised to dispose of hazardous waste covered by the WEEE directive had removed the equipment from two council sites. Some of the waste was then sold on, allegedly, for export. The Environment Agency is investigating shipments of electronic equipment to Ghana.

The case is being held up as an example of the widespread ignorance among businesses, of the rules dealing with hazardous waste and goods covered by the WEEE directive. Employees of companies caught up in the Plymouth case appeared to have little knowledge of the rules or their obligations, according to the Environment Agency.

Plymouth City Council says it has now reviewed its procedures for handling WEEE, but the case, heard by magistrates in Plymouth, shows that even councils might not fully understand the proper procedures.

This, in turn, undermines the trust placed in local authorities by businesses which send them electronic waste for disposal, suggested Chris Rogerson, business development manager at ShP, an authorised electronics recycling firm.

"The Government is trying to streamline the system, so that mistakes like this do not happen again," he said. "WEEE accounts for four per cent of waste in the EU, and it is the fastest growing category. In the UK we produce 1.6 million tonnes a year. But whilst people know about recycling paper, when it comes to electronics, they don't look at it the same way."

Rogerson pointed out that by using unauthorised recycling companies, businesses are not only at risk of prosecution, but also at risk of data loss. Authorised firms such as ShP not only handle all the paperwork, but also ensure that they wipe any data, before the equipment is refurbished or recycled.

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