Conclusions: Policy Implications and Recommendations
As indicated above, the recently introduced amendments to the EU WSR and the WEEE Directive have the potential to improve inspection and enforcement. Nevertheless, the success of these changes will greatly depend on whether national policymakers will see the fight against transnational e-waste crimes as a priority and whether individual member states will be willing to provide the necessary resources, including sufficient budgets and staff, to implement the new requirements.
There is a very thin line between illegal and legal actions in relation to transnational e-waste shipments and, therefore, it is suggested that the focus of enforcement within the member states should not only be strictly on crimes. National authorities should be encouraged even further to introduce a more integrated approach towards enforcement. The quality of inspections, intelligence, and evidence gathering prior to prosecution should be improved, for example, through intelligence-based risk assessments; better detection techniques; smarter upstream inspections to prevent illegal activities moving downstream in the e-waste chain; and providing specialized training for staff, including police, customs, and environment inspectors. There is also a great need to further improve and harmonize prosecution in the EU as the types of sanctions used within member states and their effectiveness vary greatly. Furthermore, national policymakers should aim to improve national-level cooperation among authorities involved in fighting illegal e-waste shipments and other e-waste crimes, for instance, by setting up a national task force, and should also involve other stakeholders through multi-stakeholder networks. In order to enhance cooperation in the EU at supranational level, EU policymakers could play a facilitating role and support various initiatives, such as the establishment of joint multinational investigation teams specifically focusing on illegal e-waste shipments or the setting up of a list of contact points of national prosecutors where relevant case law best practices could be shared.
Even though improving the enforcement of the WSR, and in particular inspections, is key to tackling illegal e-waste shipments leaving the EU, other more underlying problems of e-waste crimes also need to be addressed. First, the source of the problem, that is, the large volume of e- waste and the toxic substances within it, should be targeted. There is a great need for policies that are even more than now directed towards the prevention and reduction of e-waste; the reduction of the consumption of electronic and electrical products in Europe and the production of more environmentally friendly products, which contain less toxic substances and are easier to dismantle and recycle, are essential. Second, the collection of e-waste should be improved by enhancing security at collection points to avoid thefts, making collection points more accessible and visible for the public, and increasing the number of collection points. This recommendation is also seen as a key priority by Huisman et al. (2015), who suggest that actions on collection points need to take place in the short term (in 1-3 years) as this has great potential to improve the entire e-waste chain in a relatively short period. Third, the reuse of used electronic and electrical appliances should be improved by harmonizing the definition of reuse, by developing and harmonizing reuse standards and guidelines, and by providing training and capacity building for the reuse industry, including the refurbishment industry. Fourth, more targeted awareness raising is needed to make sure that consumers of electronic and electrical products are aware of correct e-waste disposal methods, the shipment of illegal e-waste and how their disposal behaviour may contribute to it, and the environmental and public health damage caused by these illegal shipments. Finally, in order to have a better overview of the magnitude of the problems linked to illegal e-waste shipments, reporting and monitoring activities also need to be improved.