The Scots are getting tough on e-waste crime. Environmentalists have long complained that the European Union’s WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) regulations have no teeth. In an attempt to turn that around, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and its local Crimestoppers organization have joined forces to tackle environmental crime.
SEPA is undertaking specific intelligence-led work targeting illegal waste operations that cause pollution and harm to the environment. SEPA is working closely with law enforcement partners, local authorities, and business and industry groups to identify high-risk sites and take effective joint-agency action.
Any business in Scotland that transports, treats, or disposes of any type of waste must have a waste permit or be registered with SEPA. Crimestoppers has joined forces with SEPA to enforce the rule by encouraging members of the public who have any information regarding illegal waste operators to contact Crimestoppers anonymously.
This new harm-led approach to environmental protection, which was designed to complement SEPA's existing method of environmental regulation, essentially means targeting activity on the issues causing or likely to cause the most harm to the environment, wildlife, and human health.
Last year, SEPA undertook a number of operations designed to tackle environmental harm, ranging from tackling the export of e-waste and the disposal of end-of-life vehicles to the dumping of waste tires and a crackdown on illegal waste-carrying HGVs (heavy goods vehicles).
According to SEPA, these operations have led to identifying a number of illegal waste sites. SEPA has also seen an increase in the trade for legal waste operators. A larger number of operators and producers have become compliant with the legislation, and an increasing number of illegal WEEE exports have been halted.
The multi-agency approach to tackle, disrupt, and deter the most serious illegal waste site operators across Scotland is continuing, with SEPA currently undertaking joint investigations with a number of Scottish police services across the country to tackle serious organized crime. SEPA hopes the partnership with Crimestoppers will allow members of the public to anonymously report crimes where previously they wouldn't, or felt they couldn't.
Given the criticism the European Union has received regarding the enforcement of WEEE and e-waste trafficking in general, the Scottish model of including local police enforcement and deploying citizen reporting via Crimestoppers could become a model for effective enforcement.
The United States has struggled in recent years to develop e-waste laws. So far, 25 states have enacted take-back programs where electronic product producers fund the recovery and safe disposal of electronic waste. Most states don’t have clear laws or strong enforcement regarding the trafficking of e-waste. There are currently no federal take-back laws.
Representatives Gene Green (D-TX) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced an federal e-waste export bill in the House of Representatives in June. The bill is designed to promote responsible electronic recycling and stop global dumping of US e-waste.