Transcript from Greenpeace Photo essay - Following the
My name's Stan and I've recently been involved in an
investigation into illegal exports of waste, electronic equipment
from the UK to Africa.
The regulations covering waste, electronic equipment in the UK
mean that everything has to certified as working before it's
exported.A discreet warning:
We got tipped-off with regards to potential illegal exports of
waste, electronic equipment, by someone who used to manage some of
the sites in Hampshire County Council for waste recycling. He
actually became disillusioned with what was really happening to the
waste there. So, rather than being recycled, it was being sent to
The first thing we did was obviously go and meet him, talk to
him, verify the information, and that led us to actually try and
prove that what he was saying was a hundred percent true.
Our plan of action:
We got a Phillips TV that was not working, and we took it to the
Sky engineering department, where the TV engineers dismantled it
and dismembered large parts of the insides. They sort of,
relatively discreetly, installed the tracking device within the
casing.The tracking equipment we used is a state-of-the-art system
that operates on GPS, GSM and RF, which is radio frequency
tracking, and what you get is very regular updates of position, you
request a new position by SMS, and depending on the frequency
parameter you've set for it to send you back a message, that's how
often you'll get them.
Following the trail:
The first position you'll see is actually the Hampshire County
Council waste recycling site.
Then it was collected by a van, which takes it to BJ
Electronics, who are the waste, electronic equipment recyclers,
charged with dealing with the equipment; and they then transported
it to their depot in Walthamstow, in North London.
Pretty much the next day, that TV, with no testing, nothing, was
then loaded into a container, which we documented; and then that
container travelled to Tilbury Docks, and it was then waiting to be
loaded onto a ship for approximately two weeks.
The ship, called the Grand America, does a regular route from
London to West Africa; and it also called in at Antwerp, and
various West African ports, where we also got a signal back form
it, and then into Lagos.
It's a port called Tin Can Island, and it's a very very large
container docks; and that was where our container sat for about two
weeks before it continued its onward journey.
Out in Africa:
Eric, with the aerial that allows us to track the radio
frequency, detector part of the tracking equipment-it's a
relatively small aerial that allows you to locate to, well, almost
a pin-point position exactly where your tracking device is. Allaba
Market, which is a massive scale, second-hand TV market with, they
reckon, between ten and fifteen containers arriving daily from
Europe and Asia, full of second-hand TV's and waste, electronic
equipment. It was an incredible place; completely chaotic; massive
scale. There's just TV's everywhere.
The next shot is actually a wheelbarrow that has, maybe fifteen
or twenty, TV's on it, being taken through the market. So, it's
distributed from the importers, who bring in these containers, to
smaller and smaller vendors, who then take them into the wider
city, and either try and fix them, sell them or dispose of
Above one of the little repair shops and the roofs are just
staggered with TV aerials, which indicate everyone wants a TV. But
the actual rooftops are also just coated with the old TV
The end of the line:
Well, we got information from the tracker the night before, that
our container was moving outside of the docks. We went to Allaba
Market the next day with the radio finding, tracking equipment and
I stayed in the hotel using a computer interface to try and get a
new position, and through a combination of the tracker information,
some on ground intelligence, and some good luck, we found the
container down one of the side streets in Allaba Market. We were
wandering through and lo and behold, there it was.The container is
clearly identifiable by a container number, which is an individual
number that identifies each container globally; and there it was,
being unloaded and all the TV's were being put along the street for
Doing a deal:
We established which one was our TV by checking the serial
numbers, and then we went into a sort of bargaining process with
the owner/importer of this container. We claimed we were buying it
as a present for the Nigerian fixer, who was working with us, and
they seemed happy to sell it to us under the condition, obviously,
that it hadn't been tested. They didn't know it was working; and we
made a bargain with them; and got someone to carry it the half-mile
back to our van, through the crazed market.
The next image is a receipt, actually, that we got from the
importer. So, it's got the details of the importer, how much we
paid for it, and a brief description of the TV.
When we eventually get the TV back to hotel-last time I'd seen
it was when we'd deposited it back in Hampshire County Council's
waste recycling department-and it was very strange to see it back
after all that time.
Hampshire County Council have a duty of care to recycle all this
equipment properly; and what is very obviously happening is that
it's just being done on the cheap; and that means exporting to
Africa, without any prior testing; it's just a cheap and dirty