This report examines the case of illegal shipments of e-waste from the EU to China and the effectiveness of EU legislation to counter these shipments. Although the import of e-waste into China has been officially banned since 2000, it is estimated that around 8 million tonnes of e-waste are imported illegally into China every year. Despite empirical data suffering from high uncertainties, the scale of the e-waste trade, its environmental and health impacts, and its links to crime are difficult to contest.
This case study reveals that many legal actors, such as companies, are involved in illegal e-waste shipments and that many actors involved walk on a thin line between legal and illegal. Profit plays a crucial role, but a series of push, pull and facilitating factors gives a more sophisticated picture of the drivers and motivations behind this environmental crime. Loosely structured organised crime groups are often behind illegal trafficking of e-waste to China. Traditional mafia-like organised crime groups seem to be rather marginally involved, mostly as facilitators of the e-waste crime.
Enforcement in the EU suffers from differences in implementation of relevant legislation among Member States. The EU legislative framework, which has been significantly amended in recent years, however is sufficiently coherent and does not show major gaps. The recent legislative amendments have the potential to improve inspection and enforcement on the ground, but it remains to be seen whether this will effectively occur. Given the complexity of the e-waste problem approaches beyond enforcement and inspections are needed. As part of its conclusions this report also presents a series of policy recommendations.