Skip to main content

CWIT - Countering WEEE Illegal Trade

Periodic Report Summary 1 - CWIT (CWIT - Countering WEEE Illegal Trade)

Project Context and Objectives:
The Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT) project will provide a set of recommendations to the European Commission and law enforcement authorities that will assist them in countering the illegal trade of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), also known as ‘e-waste’, within and from Europe. Funded by the European Union’s Framework Program 7, this two-year security research project brings together a group of experts skilled in the fields of WEEE analysis, crime analysis, supply chain security and database management.
Only around 3.5 million tons of the estimated total of 10 million tons of WEEE was officially reported to authorities as collected and treated across Europe in 2012. WEEE contains materials such as gold, copper and palladium, which makes it very valuable on the black market, attracting not just illegal single operators but serious organised crime groups.
However, WEEE also contains hazardous substances such as mercury and cadmium. Therefore illegal WEEE handling, often in poorer countries, leads to huge health issues and environmental pollution. At the same time, European Union Member States are losing a vast amount of rare earth metals and other important minerals due to increasing illicit activities, poor compliance rates, and limited enforcement activities in WEEE.
These issues call for increased attention and enhanced enforcement in the context of WEEE trade, transport and treatment. The CWIT project has been established to identify the policy, regulatory, procedural and technical gaps as observed in today’s business environment, and to suggest tangible improvements. CWIT will help its two main target groups – WEEE-related industries, and governmental policy and enforcement actors – to enhance capabilities to seriously reduce illicit activities around WEEE in the future.
More specifically, the outputs of the CWIT project will comprise a set of recommendations related to the European legal and policy framework, taking into account the objectives and constraints of all key government and business stakeholders. The project will also provide recommendations on future research and technologies that would contribute to the reduction of illegal trade of WEEE.
In addition, the CWIT project will establish a multi-layer platform for information exchange among the various actors involved in countering WEEE illegal trade. Key stakeholders for the project include: EU-level policy makers and regulators; national law enforcement agencies, including police, customs and environmental inspection agencies; and WEEE treatment and electronics sectors and industries.
In achieving these objectives, the CWIT consortium will, among other tasks:
• Estimate the volume of WEEE generated in Europe;
• Identify companies, including brokers, involved in the WEEE export market;
• Analyse the involvement of organised crime in the global distribution of WEEE; and,
• Develop a detailed understanding of the destinations and routes used to carry out illicit WEEE shipments.

Project Results:
The Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT) project commenced in September 2013. This two year project is financed under the European Commission FP7 financial instrument. The CWIT consortium is composed of partners that have a great deal of expertise in the WEEE area, crime analysis and the management of large databases. Seven partners make up the consortium (INTERPOL (coordinators), United Nations University (scientific coordinators), Compliance & Risks Ltd., Cross Border Research Association, WEEE Forum, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, Zanasi & Partners).
This report outlines the work carried out in the fulfilment of the project objectives in the first reporting period month 1(M1) – month 12(M12). During this time period the project partners focused on the identification of information sources and the establishment of databases that will support the subsequent steps of the project. During this period 14 deliverables became due for submission and two milestones were achieved. All tasks are proceeding in an efficient and timely fashion and all deliverables due by the end of Year 1 of the project are submitted on time.
WP1 – Management and Coordination
The objective of work package 1 (WP1) is to coordinate and monitor the progress of the CWIT project and to ensure the achievement of the project objectives. A High-Level Advisory Board was set to provide advice and support to the Consortium.
WP2 – WEEE Actors and Amounts
The objective of work package 2 (WP2) is to produce an overview of the European WEEE industries and the relevant actors and parties in these industries with a particular focus on the end-users involved in the fight against the illegal trade of WEEE. Activities to be performed: mapping of all the relevant stakeholders; analysis of the distribution of WEEE; gathering and analysis of existing initiatives, projects and studies. All this information will be made available to all project partners via the C2P information management system and will serve as input to all the other work packages, (‘knowledge database’).
WP3 – Legal Framework
Work package 3 (WP3) builds on the intelligence gathered in WP2 and its objective is to provide a global overview of the current legislation in place at international, European, and national levels. By engaging with stakeholders through questionnaires, WP3 will comparatively evaluate different national political and regulatory environments on WEEE. WP3 will also deliver recommendations for best policies that support actions countering illegal trade of WEEE.
WP4 – Market Assessment
The aim of work package 4 (WP4) is to build up an up-to-date and accurate picture of the WEEE operators and the industry that is built around the trade in WEEE. Based on the information and identification of WEEE operators in WP2, this WP will gather all key facts and figures on the EEE amounts place on the EU market and resulting WEEE flows.
An estimation of the total volume of WEEE generated in Europe will be performed and a conceptual model of the WEEE stream including lifespans and destinations of discarded equipment will be created. The resulting market assessment will describe all reported flows and the resulting gap analysis on missing quantities is the starting point for the crime analysis scheduled in WP5.
WP5 – Crime Analysis
The objectives of work package 5 (WP5) are to conduct a comprehensive study of the involvement of organized crime groups in the global distribution of WEEE, identify the specific criminal activities and modi operandi associated with illegal WEEE shipments, and provide an estimation of the volume of WEEE that is generated and illegally traded. Law enforcement and compliance gaps will be analysed and a system of best practices to mitigate the illegal trade in WEEE will be developed.
WP6 – Recommendations
The objective of work package 6 (WP6) is to provide a set of recommendations to government actors and industries involved in the WEEE stream. WP6 aims to heighten awareness of the WEEE issue, facilitate discussions between stakeholders and increase the resilience of the WEEE industry against illegal trade. The recommendations will be delivered in the form of reports specifically tailored to the target audience. A strategic roadmap will also be created to equip the European Commission with the knowledge to guide future research and technology development
WP7 – Dissemination
The objective of work package 7 (WP7) is to ensure that the results of the project have a lasting and permanent impact on European society and that many international organizations can use these results, which are likely to have diverse audiences, from members of the larger FP7/EC community, to other research organizations and other government departments – both within the EU and outside. Several of the partners have large networks through which to share the results and recommendations of the project. The dissemination will, therefore, have to be achieved through a range of traditional and new media strategies.

Potential Impact:
At the end of the first year of research of the CWIT project many of the possible recommendations and findings are emerging from the detailed analysis of the data collected and the stakeholder discussions. These results may be roughly grouped according to three categories; The conceptual and methodological results; empirical results, and policy results. In addition the results of the CWIT project will consider the socio-economic impact of the project on society.

Empirical results
The initial phase of the CWIT project concentrated on identifying the WEEE actors, collecting information on quantity of WEEE in Europe, the relevant legislation framework for WEEE the supply chain, and identified the global state-of-the-art research into WEEE. An important project result is the establishment of databases which will not only support the on-going work of the project but also will present a valuable overview of the global WEEE industry that this research has revealed.
WEEE is one of the fastest growing waste streams worldwide of which, in Europe, it is estimated 40% is documented as collected. The project will identify the WEEE stakeholders in Europe and internationally and build a global network of WEEE and enforcement experts that will contribute to the work carried out in the several work packages and benefit from the outcomes of the project.
The project has identified more than 1200 organisation in Europe and representing the key the WEEE stakeholder groups in Europe and internationally in order to engage and ensure that the results and recommendations of the project will be disseminated widely. Stakeholders which are included in this data base include those involved in the life cycle of WEEE and therefore have the responsibility for production of electronics and electrical equipment and the management of the WEEE; those involved in the decision making and development of the regulatory framework; and those involved with the implementation and enforcement of environmental law.
Using a methodical and systematic approach to the identification of data and data sources, the project is producing a more comprehensive and more meaningful state-of-the-art knowledge base of the WEEE facts which is proving to be a valuable resource for many European agencies and industries.
A database has been set up enabling structured and consistent gathering of many different sources of information regarding EEE Put On the Market, WEEE generated amounts and collected and complementary treatment amounts. Data on the amounts put on the market and on the amounts collected per Member State have been gathered from different data sources and stored in a database that meets the needs of WP4.
In parallel with the identification of the WEEE community an overview of the legislative framework which support the European and global WEEE market was analysed. The central result of the project will be a new WEEE toolkit to assist those involved in the fight against illegal trade in WEEE in the identification of and mitigation of barriers to compliance.

Conceptual and methodological results
One of the primary aims of the CWIT project is the quantification and modelling of the WEEE supply chain. The fact that only around 3 million tonnes of the estimated total of 8 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), was officially collected, treated and reported to authorities across Europe in 2010, raises several concerns among the various WEEE-stakeholders.
There is no universally agreed standardised classification of EEE and WEEE at the moment. This lack of common framework hampers integration, processing and validation of available data during the project. In order to streamline data gathering for EEE and WEEE amounts data is collected using three existing classification systems (the existing WEEE Directive, the recast WEEE directive and the categories of the WEEE Forum) that are commonly employed for calculating WEEE statistics in the EU. This work presents a harmonised approach to the classification of the WEEE. The linking of the established “UNU keys” for the classification of WEEE to the other common classification systems is a prerequisite for the detailed market assessment that will be performed in WP4
A greater understanding of the challenges experienced by actors in the legitimate WEEE industry and those in detection and enforcement roles, is important to the success of the project and ultimately to the recommendations that will be developed. The projects understanding of the WEEE Supply chain is based on the empirical data which is gathered from the WEEE industry, Statistical agencies, Customs and enforcement agencies.
The ultimately challenge for the project has been to plot and analyse the linkages between models for the volumes of WEEE and possible crime typologies, to understand how gaps recorded in the WEEE markets may change from one region to another, and possibly from one security challenge to another. A key result will be the project’s progress in drawing consequences of these linkages for the analysis of future threats.

Policy results
The CWIT project focuses in particular on the link between the quantification of WEEE in Europe, transboundary movement of WEEE, the typology of crimes associated with WEEE, and the policy recommendations that might lead to improved security within the WEEE supply chain.
In the next period of the project the partners will seek to further define the problem and make recommendations based on interviews and feedback of policy makers, industry and operators involved in the WEEE supply chain, and experiences of environmental enforcement agencies. As a consequence, the project will have as an important result a number of recommendations and approaches for improving security decision making, including decision rationale based on input of societal or value-based factors.

Potential socio-economic and societal impact
It is anticipated that the CWIT project make a socio-economic impact through its recommendations and the raising of awareness of the impact of the illegal trade in WEEE. Economic drivers on the illegal trade of WEEE along the whole value chain will be analysed in depth during the project.
The CWIT project highlights that the WEEE industry in Europe is undermined by criminal elements involved in the illegal trade of waste and this may jeopardise the ability of legitimate industry to exist. Illegal trade in WEEE also threatens the access to natural resources, and increases the risk of harmful pollutants being released into the environment where proper treatment of WEEE does not take place in authorised facilities.
The potential societal impact of the CWIT project is significant. Because of this, the result of the project will form recommendations that will have an impact across the EU and beyond.

List of Websites:
www.cwitproject.eu