18th Mar 2018

EU law aims to curb dumping of old phones, fridges in Africa

  • Children are sometimes used to collect and dismantle e-waste, says the UN. (Photo: Vibek Raj Maurya)

A European Commission directive aimed at curbing illegal dumping of electronic waste, such as mobiles, computers and refrigerators, in developing countries entered into forced on Monday (13 August).

The commission says the law will require exporters to scrutinise all the equipment before it is placed onto cargo ships. Exporters will also have to provide documents on shipments authorities deem potentially illegal.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"Illegal shipments of WEEE [waste electrical and electronic equipment] are a serious problem, especially when they are disguised as legal shipments of used equipment to circumvent EU waste treatment rules," said the EU executive.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), after a two-year study, released a report earlier this year which details the illegal export and impact of European "e-waste" to Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Liberia.

"Amsterdam, Antwerp ports but also UK ports were also places that were sending used electrical and electronic equipment and e-waste to Africa," Michael Stanley-Jones, a spokesperson from UNEP told EUobserver from Geneva.

"When we looked at the manifest and opened the containers on arrival, we found in different degrees relatively large proportions of the shipments labelled as commodities as used equipment were in fact non-operative and therefore classified under the Basel convention as waste," he said.

Exporters in both the ports in Amsterdam and Antwerp posted misleading labels on some of the shipments destined to the countries in the study.

Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) were declared as "second-hand goods ... private goods ... for charities ... for personal use ... miscellaneous ... [and] effects personnels."

UN-led investigators also found that the EEE label, in some cases, had been manipulated to disguise the illegal exports.

In some instances, exporters would remove generators from refrigerators in order to classify them as not containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFC).

Customs declarations were then given to authorities on the same day the ocean carrier was set to sail, says the UN report.

"Both the Dutch and Belgian port authorities emphasize that personnel and financial limitations are severe obstacles to achieving better control of exports of used and end-of life EEE."

The study revealed that the UK is the dominant exporting country for EEE, followed, after a large gap, by France and Germany. Nigeria, of the five recipient countries, received the largest amount of EEE, followed by Ghana.

In one case, the investigators monitored 176 containers labelled as EEE entering Nigeria between March and July 2010.

More than 75 percent of all the containers came from Europe with the vast majority being shipped out of the UK's Felixtowe port.

Mercury, cadmium, lead, hexavalent chromium and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and ozone depleting substances are commonly found in the waste. The materials pose a significant safety and health risk to workers and the surrounding environment.

The European Commission says the directive will also impose a collection threshold.

Member states will be required to collect 45 percent of electronic equipment sold starting in 2016 which is then set to increase to 65 percent in 2019. Alternatively, member states can also opt to collect 85 percent of electronic waste generated.

"Member states will be able to choose which one of these two equivalent ways to measure the target they wish to report," said the European Commission in a statement.

Europe generates an estimated annual 9 million metric tonnes of e-waste of which only 3 million tonnes is recycled. The commission believes the volume will increase to 12 million metric tonnes annually by 2020.

New electronic waste law to come into force

Under rules coming into force on Saturday customers will be able to hand in their old electronic goods when buying new devices at shops throughout the EU. However, many member states are dragging their feet on implementing the law.

New pesticides committee begins work on EU approvals

The new European Parliament committee will try to restore citizens' trust in the procedure after the glyphosate affair. Its 30 members have some experience on pesticide issues - but different positions.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden emerges as possible US-North Korean summit host
  2. Google accused of paying academics backing its policies
  3. New interior minister: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'
  4. Hamburg 'dieselgate' driver wins case to get new VW car
  5. Slovak deputy PM asked to form new government
  6. US, Germany, France condemn 'assault on UK sovereignty'
  7. MEPs accept Amsterdam as seat for EU medicines agency
  8. Auditors: EU farm 'simplification' made subsidies more complex

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Latest News

  1. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  2. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  3. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  4. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant
  5. Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks
  6. Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case
  7. Western allies back UK amid Russian media blitz
  8. Meet the European Parliament's twittersphere

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction