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Export ban on electrical waste set up
Many of us become very frustrated when we see a cigarette packet discarded through a car window, or a can thrown down by a youngsters close to, but not into, a waste bin.
However, we are less disturbed by the disposal of waste that happens away from our gaze, and that has often been the problem with electronic items.
In the past, small items would be thrown into the waste bin, and larger ones, fridges, computers and washers, were often fly-tipped or given to the local totter who would weigh them in at the nearest scrap yard. They were out of sight and out of mind and there was little concern about what happened next and where the waste finally ended up.
There has been some initial improvement since the European Union passed the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) in 2003. It took the UK two more years than the other countries to implement, but now there is more direction with what to do with old equipment.
It’s possible to ask the Council to remove bulky items (call 01274 431000), free of charge, except for the fridges which cost £15 to cover the cost of degassing so that refrigerant gas doesn’t escape to destroy the ozone layer.
In theory, all the discarded electrical items should be repaired for re-use, or recycled to reclaim the useful metals and materials, but it’s clear that this is not always the case.
Retailers now have a duty to take an old item for proper disposal if they are supplying a new one, but there is some evidence that this does not work quite as well as intended. However, Tesco will give a valuation for small electrical goods handed in and provide credit on a Green Clubcard.
You will often see flatbed lorries and horse drawn carts in the Bradford district laden with scrap metal, including fridges and boilers and it’s clear that rather than being sorted, they will generally be weighed in, baled and passed on.
However, the real evil is the way that more than three quarters of the goods that are supposed to be recycled are exported to developing countries, described as exports rather than waste, where they are picked over to find rare metals by children and adults, without protection. The burning of the wire to produce copper releases carcinogens and also leads to a high level of TB.
The good news is that an international conference has agreed to have a global ban on the export of such hazardous waste to developing countries from industrial ones, but it will take another five years before it’s implemented as the United States has yet to ratify the agreement.