Interpol has announced a crackdown on the illegal electronic waste trade.
The international policing organization has launched the Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT) project to focus on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), an increasing threat to global environmental health and security.
When illegally transported or dumped, electronic waste poses serious health risks due to substances such as mercury, which can pollute the environment and cause health problems among the population. In addition, the valuable materials contained in some products, like gold, copper and palladium, attract the involvement of organized criminal groups.
“The diverse expertise brought together in the CWIT consortium will encourage a comprehensive and multidisciplinary examination of the illegal trade in e-waste,” said David Higgins, head of Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme.
“Co-operation across all sectors involved – including industry, law enforcement and policy makers – is essential to tackling this issue at its roots and will help ensure a more secure global environment and level economic playing field,” added Higgins.
The project targets three main groups – government policy actors, law enforcement agencies and the electronics and e-waste industries. Its main goal is to identify the existing policy, regulatory, procedural and technical gaps which criminals exploit in order to illegally transport and dispose of e-waste, and to recommend solutions.
Among the tasks of the CWIT project are to estimate the volume of e-waste generated in Europe; assess the type of companies involved in exporting e-waste; analyse the involvement of organized crime; and develop a detailed understanding of the destinations and routes used for illegal e-waste shipments.
“The e-waste challenge has many facets. Illegal shipment is just one aspect, and it causes substantial losses of valuable resources,” said Dr. Jaco Huisman, scientific co-ordinator of the project and scientific advisor to the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace, Sustainable Cycles. “At the same time, the illegal trade in e-waste leads to extreme pollution cases at local dump sites,” added Huisman.
Partners in the CWIT project include experts on e-waste analysis, criminal analysis, database management, regulatory compliance and security research. The consortium consists of Interpol, United Nations University, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, WEEE Forum, Cross-border Research Association, Compliance and Risks, and Zanasi & Partners.