Skip to the content

British Rubbish to Global Waste Problem - The Problem with 'Recycling' Exports

Landfill site full of recycling

Towards the end of last month (June 2020), a BBC investigation found that large piles of exported rubbish produced in the United Kingdom are being illegally dumped, buried, and burnt at the roadside in remote locations in Turkey.

Despite being logged as part of Britain's 'green' contribution to global reusables, the BBC's new evidence shows an unknown percentage of the 160,000 tonnes of plastic waste exported abroad has ended up fly-tipped, burnt, or wrongly sent to a landfill site. This is just one part of an ongoing global problem; while supposedly processed ethically in their country of origin, large amounts of 'recycled' waste are illegally disposed of via other means.

BBC News also found that some plastic, metal and paper waste labelled as 'recyclable' has been mistreated during export, transport, and sorting, rendering it worthless for reuse. A combination of improper, bulk-bag packaging by unscrupulous exporters and alleged 'back alley' small recycling plants trying to cut costs is causing companies to accidentally landfill vast amounts of waste – including old IT assets and storage devices.

Why Is Corner-Cutting 'Recycling' So Dangerous?

As well as being a waste of valuable, reusable material, electronic waste can release toxic fumes, microplastic shards, and dangerous chemicals into the environment. These by-products can build up and infect the water table, hurt crop growth and livestock, and contribute to rising global CO2 emissions. Fly-tipping also ruins local spaces, while wildfires can easily result from unenclosed, unsafe incineration.

While most electronic goods are marked as 'mandatory' for recycling and WEEE disposal (under UK and EU Law), some items end up in the wrong place by mistake or deliberate malpractice. E-Waste dumps result when old or broken British-owned PCs, laptops, tablets, mobiles, and other electronic items are purchased in bulk and then landfilled or dumped. Some of the poorest regions on the planet suffer from this unfortunate phenomenon – often without the knowledge of the equipment’s original owners.

Data Security Risks

These rubbish dumps are also an excellent opportunity for hackers and fraudsters. A lack of decent corporate data cleansing means that hard drives and storage media with valuable, sensitive information that can be easily recovered with off-the-shelf software are often left untouched on old machines. Old passwords, usernames, and personal information can be used to commit identity theft, lift credit and debit cards, and break into secured accounts.

To avoid this risk to your business and your customers, always make sure you use a WEEE-accredited, transparent, licenced IT recycler with good standards of data erasure and sanitisation when disposing of your used and faulty electronic items. You may prove personally liable for fines and penalties under the GDPR (2018) if you neglect your recycling and data security obligations.

Remote Protection From Fuse Collaboration

While DEFRA has pledged to introduce better electronic tracking to counter a lack of accountability and oversight in global end-of-life product supply chains, it is your brand that is at risk if a third party incorrectly disposes of old equipment, or customer data falls into the wrong hands.

If you're going to be shipping used electronics to a recycling plant, or need to plan for end-of-life equipment disposal, Fuse Collaboration can help you set up data safeguards on your devices. Our extensive expertise in cloud computing means that your data can be moved to a safe, remote location - protecting it from easy retrieval from physical devices by criminals.

We recommend Microsoft 365 as a cloud-based solution to protect, transfer, and share vital documents and other files, eliminating the risks of storing data locally. part of our managed IT support packages, we can also offer safe, heavy-duty data erasure and full GDPR-compliant standards to all of our clients. Call or email us today to out more.

Image Source: Pexels

About the author


Fuse is a Microsoft Partner, based in Northampton. We help organisations of all sizes to maximise IT efficiencies through the use of Microsoft cloud computing solutions.

comments powered by Disqus

Let's talk.

We'd love to hear from you.