One of Britain's biggest recycling companies has ordered an immediate halt to exports of electronic goods by its subcontractors after an investigation found that toxic "e-waste" left at two of its municipal sites was being sent to West Africa.
Campaigners from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) placed tracking devices inside televisions which had been disabled beyond repair, making it illegal to export them under European rules which require all electronic goods being sent abroad to be tested to ensure they are in working order.
Two of the televisions, which had been left at waste-recycling sites operated by Merseyside-based Environmental Waste Controls (EWC), were bought by a subcontractor and eventually tracked to Nigeria and Ghana. EIA, whose findings are the subject of a BBC1 Panorama documentary tonight, said the goods had not been tested prior to leaving Britain and had therefore been exported illegally.
An investigation by The Independent in 2009, which also used trackers in disabled TVs to show that tonnes of e-waste was being exported illegally, prompted calls for a tightening of regulations designed to ensure that Britain's mountain of discarded electronics is safely recycled rather than being sent to Africa, where it is stripped of valuable but toxic components in dangerous conditions.