Rotherham - The UK Environment Agency is heading up a groundbreaking international environmental crime group to help tackle illegal dumping of electrical waste on developing countries. The Interpol Global Crime Group is a worldwide intelligence-led operation which includes environmental crime investigators in the United States and Europe such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Dutch Environment Agency VROM.
Working with Interpol, the group will investigate links between organised criminal networks, 'waste tourists' and the illegal export of electrical waste, especially to developing countries. 'Waste tourists' are people who visit the UK as tourists with the intention of organising the purchase and export of waste. During their visit the 'waste tourist' will get one or more containers filled with waste and arrange for export. The 'waste tourist’s' typically short stay makes it very difficult to bring them to justice.
The Interpol group will better co-ordinate the exchange of intelligence between environment agencies. It will also conduct enquiries via an International Task Force to prevent countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and some in the Far East becoming dumping grounds for waste electrics.
Speaking ahead of next week’s Environment Agency annual conference Environment ’09, chairman Lord Chris Smith said: “Investigations have found that each year thousands of tonnes of waste electrical equipment are shipped from Europe and America to developing countries to be stripped down – often by children under appalling conditions – to extract valuable metals such as gold, copper and aluminium. This is unacceptable. It is essential that we work with our counterparts in other countries to share intelligence and stamp out the growing problem of illegal waste exports. The group’s aim is to tackle an international problem with an international response."
The Environment Agency-led Interpol Global Crime Group initiative won the praise of both the US and Canadian Governments during recent international meetings.
Lord Smith together with Chief Executive Paul Leinster met with US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and her officials in Washington last week to discuss key global issues such as climate change, waste and water resources. The two organisations will work closely on intelligence-led illegal waste operations in the future.