Death by a Thousand Cuts
The axing by the government of the WEEE Advisory Board is a matter of real concern, coming as it does on the back of decisions to cut the budgets of DEFRA and of the Environment Agency.
The new government says it wants to bring the responsibilities of the WEEE Advisory Board ‘back into government’ where there is more accountability.
However the government agencies that these responsibilites will be ‘in-sourced’ to are suffering swingeing cuts of their own.
DEFRA is being forced to make £162m in ‘savings’ this year which it says will necessitate cuts across the board – cuts that cannot be achieved simply by limiting new recruitment.
The Environment Agency is DEFRA’s watchdog body and has been doing the job of overseeing and policing the implementation of the WEEE Directive. Now that the Environment Agency is forced to cut staff its ability to effectively police and prosecute will be compromised.
The cuts come at a particularly sensitive time as the Environment Agency has recently made significant progress in clamping down on environmental criminals breaching the WEEE Directive. A number of arrests have been made and we have seen successful prosecutions for dumping or illegally trading in eWaste.
Every year millions of items of eWaste from the UK are illegally traded and shipped overseas where much of it ends up dumped in developing countries. This is an issue of increasing public concern internationally.
Cutting back on the policing of environmental crime, just as real headway was being made, is a false economy and is likely to give a green light to the eWaste cowboys.
Agencies that promote reuse & recycling within the UK and that prevent the export of harm, such as the WEEE Advisory Board and the Environment Agency should be guaranteed the resources necessary to fulfil these essential duties.
This year we were expecting to move this environmental agenda positively forward with the re-casting of the WEEE Directive in order to to tighten up loopholes and introduce new targets for reuse. Instead, with these cuts, we find the campaign for environmental justice facing new challenges and, in some areas, going backwards.
Computer Aid campaigns internationally against the export of eWaste;
for the reuse of working equipment in education and development programs; and for the proper recycling of all Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.