Industry onlookers have blasted resellers for being too preoccupied with cost when dealing with recycling issues and selecting partners that are reckless and unethical.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently concluded an 18-month investigation into the illegal disposal and export of e-waste. Its report - System Failure: The UK's harmful trade of electronic waste - was published last week. It outlined how an estimated 75 per cent of the e-waste in the EU each year remains unaccounted for.
"Much of Europe's e-waste ends up in west Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana," added the report. "A lot of [B2B recycling firms] offer a range of services, including data-wiping, and operate according to the law, but others sell on the e-waste they collect rather than recycle it themselves."
Jon Godfrey, director of Sims Recycling Solutions, claimed resellers that partner with recyclers to offer end users asset disposal ask too few questions. Quite apart from the ethical considerations, inadequate data disposal is a big risk in working with unscrupulous recyclers, he added.
"I would estimate that in excess of half of the companies involved in recycling within the channel will buy those services purely on price without thinking about the risk," he added. "You wouldn't run your corporate network on a free firewall, and the risks are very similar. You're playing with your reputation and there are significant costs if you're found to be in breach."
Andy Howell, recycling director at Stone, claimed most resellers are "more concerned with financial objectives than the potential for embarrassment".
The EIA report concluded that one of the contributing factors to the UK's poor e-waste record is the surfeit of producer compliance schemes: 36, compared with just four in France, three in Germany and two in the Netherlands.
Howell, along with Godfrey and execs from firms including Microsoft and 2e2, set up the trade body Asset Disposal and Information Security Alliance. An effective system of self-policing might be the best way forward, he claimed.
"There needs to be a structure," said Howell.
Godfrey added: "Companies can have all the [existing] certificates, but somewhere down the line they are selling waste to somebody who, either deliberately or through lack of control, will breach the regulations."
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