Illicit trafficking of WEEE waste

For the illicit trafficking in WEEE waste (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment) carried out in an organized manner, the crime provided for by art. 260 of Legislative Decree 152/2006 (pursuant to art.53bis of the so-called Ronchi Decree). If then it comes to illicit waste trafficking organized at an international level, art. 259 of Legislative Decree 152.

From 2002 to today, the investigations in Italy on the illicit waste trafficking which concerned i WEEE they totaled 6, equal to 2.7% of the total investigations. The investigations led to the arrest of 41 people while another 214 were reported on the loose. 10 companies in eight different regions were also involved in the investigations.

The source of the data we report is the 'Pirates of the WEEEIt is managed by the WEEE Coordination Center in collaboration with Legambiente.

If these results have been reached, it is also because the 'crime of organized activity of illicit waste trafficking', In fact the only environmental crime foreseen in Italy, has allowed the investigators to investigate what are real criminal holding companies also using telephone and environmental wiretapping.

However, a significant part of the illicit trafficking in WEEE waste it concerns equipment that takes illegal routes only after being dismantled and deprived of valuable components. Especially the plastics and metals of WEEE they end up in the illegal disposal chain of these materials which, from 2002 to today, has given rise to 32 judicial investigations with 238 arrests and 708 reports on the loose attributable to 145 companies in 18 regions.

In addition to the organized recovery and illegal trade of WEEE, which configures the illicit waste trafficking, the phenomenon of landfills is of concern. In the last five years, 299 illegal landfills of WEEE. The negative record of illegal sites discovered is from Puglia, a region that among other things also excels in the collection ranking of WEEE per capita. Campania, Calabria, Tuscany and Sicily follow closely.

A third deleterious phenomenon is the savage domestic disposal of WEEE carried out by those who throw the used devices in the bins (illegal action) or bury them everywhere (illegal and even more reprehensible action). The bins for the collection of unsorted waste are, according to the data, the destination of at least 30% of small WEEE and in particular light bulbs and other light sources. Smart bins for electronic waste would be needed, but they are still a rarity.

The lack of information and the still limited number of collection centers throughout the country contribute to the 'do-it-yourself' disposal. Sometimes shopkeepers don't help: a monthly survey The new ecology conducted with the 'mystery shopper' technique has made it possible to discover that only 4 out of 12 merchants agree to collect a used light bulb for the purchase of a new one. And this despite the law stipulating that the shopkeeper who refuses to collect the WEEE incurs a fine of up to 400 euros for each piece.

Six WEEE arouse interest to the point of fueling a substantial illicit waste trafficking it is because, in addition to substances dangerous for the environment and health such as greenhouse gases, heavy metals (lead and mercury) and endocrine system destroyers (brominated flame retardants), they also contain rare and strategic materials for various industrial productions (indium and palladium) and precious metals such as gold, copper and silver. The value of copper on the market is around 5-6 thousand euros per ton, that of aluminum around 2 thousand and that of iron is around 300 euros / ton.

WEEE is interesting for the illicit waste trafficking because they also contain the so-called 'rare earths', 15 chemical-mineral elements particularly used in electronic components, even more precious. The value of rare earths such as scandium, yttrium and lanthanum fluctuates between 33,000 and 100,000 euros per kilo. The economic problem linked to these elements is not given by scarcity, but by the fact that 90% of their presence is concentrated in China where they are extracted and processed. The exorbitant market value depends on the monopoly situation.

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