International experts outline global strategy to tackle e-waste threat at INTERPOL meeting

25 May 2010

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, USA – Identifying and implementing a worldwide strategy to combat the illegal traffic of electronic waste (e-waste) is the focus of the INTERPOL Global E-waste meeting which opened today.

The three-day meeting (25-27 May) co-hosted by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Office will provide a forum for more than 100 representatives and experts from 21 countries and 12 Non Governmental Organizations – the largest ever such gathering of involved countries and agencies - to develop a multi-national enforcement strategy to tackle the growing international problem of e-waste which poses significant environmental and health risks, in particular in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

The discarded electronic equipment exported to these countries, including scrapped televisions, cell phones and other electronic waste – an estimated 50 million tons of personal computers alone are disposed of each year - contains a host of hazardous constituents including lead, arsenic mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals that can have serious health and environmental impacts.  The ‘smash and burn’ method used by poor labourers to isolate and collect the heavy metals significantly risks their health.

A key element of the meeting is the development of a working plan to support planned multi-national enforcement operations aimed at controlling and deterring the illegal traffic of e-waste.

“America is committed to working with its international law enforcement partners to explore all avenues available to curb the illegal transport of hazardous waste transnationally,” said Fred Burnside, Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement. “The work of this group should send a strong message that the environmental cops are on the beat.”

“INTERPOL has received an increasing amount of information about the level of organization behind these crimes and the damaging effects of their actions on people and the planet,” said David Asante-Apeatu, Director of INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime and Analysis unit.

“We now need to develop this awareness into action which is what this meeting will help achieve and to give all agencies involved the way forward to identify and dismantle the networks behind these destructive crimes.

In 2009, INTERPOL established the Global E-Waste Crime Group, under the direction of the Environment Agency of England and Wales, to develop a comprehensive approach to investigating and prosecuting serious international environmental crime.

“Unfortunately the illegal transport of waste from the industrialized world to developing countries is an increasing problem, in particular when it comes to e-waste. To be able to strengthen our methods for supervision in this field we need to exchange knowledge and experiences on a global level and we believe this meeting is a great starting point for doing so,” said Ingela Hiltula, head of the Swedish EPA´s unit for Environmental instruments. 

Participants will exchange information on their respective country’s strategic efforts to control illegal e-waste and develop a sustainable information network which will assist environmental law enforcement from both exporting and importing countries.