Hi Federico, and thanks for agreeing to join a CBRA Interview, as the first expert in year 2016 – can you first tell a bit who are you and what you do?
Thank you for the opportunity of sharing some of the past experiences and projects done, including those with CBRA and looking ahead into the next years. I’m a mechanical engineer as background, with a PhD in Management, Economical and Industrial Engineers and I am working as Associate Programme Officer at United Nations University – Vice-Rectorate in Europe. I’m in particular working for SCYCLE, SCYCLE operating unit of the UN University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability.
Can you explain more on what is the United Nations University, UNU?
UNU is, despite the name, not a classical university as many might think. The United Nations University (UNU) is a global think tank and postgraduate teaching organization headquartered in Japan. The mission of the UN University is to contribute, through collaborative research and education, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States. We work a lot with leading universities and research institutes in various countries, functioning as a bridge between the international academic community and the United Nations system. Our operating unit SYCLE is particularly devoted to research in the field of electronic waste.
UNU, INTERPOL, CBRA and other partners finished few months ago a 2-year research project on electronic waste crime and non-compliance, the FP7-CWIT –project. From your perspective, what were the most important outcomes of that project?
The CWIT project contributed in my opinion to increase the general understanding of volumes of electronic waste annually arising in different EU Member States and the fate of the disposed equipment. Knowing the baseline of products annually discarded by EU citizens is a first, fundamental step to allow policymakers and stakeholders at large to develop a strategy to ensure proper collection and treatment. In addition to that the project described the main drivers behind the flows diverted from the actual take back and recycling systems across the EU.
A second important outcome of the project is the analysis and identification of the main crime patterns that are typical of such an Industry: in the illegal trade of WEEE, there is a varying degree of compliance and criminality that spans across a continuum ranging from minor unintentional violations or non-compliance by individuals to deliberate illegal activities following a criminal business model. The organisational structure differs by country and region, from individual traders to structured criminal groups.
The combination of those two elements – knowledge of the market and understanding of criminal behaviours – allowed drawing a roadmap for future improvement in compliance and enforcement.
Do you believe that some of the CWIT outcomes will have practical positive impacts to reduce future crime and non-compliance, in the broader context of e-waste handling and management?
I sincerely hope so. And I am sure this will happen. To which extent is hard to predict but in the second part of the project we really focused on how to derive practical recommendations for the various actors involved along the entire value chain. And we broadly discussed the ideas, in many cases deriving from real cases and best practices, with various stakeholders; I hope this will increase the likelihood of having some of the recommendations actually implemented.
We committed ourselves to disseminate the recommendations beyond the project duration and we have seen already some results, with the project findings being discussed in various fora, conferences and public events, including some internal meeting with EC officials. And we have seen official request from some Members of the EU Parliament, who quizzed the EC on the consequences of the CWIT project, challenging here to take concrete actions.
Now we are launching a new project called DOT.COM WASTE – with several CWIT partners, and few new partners. You are the project manager for this “CWIT follow-up” –project, congratulations on that. Can you please explain what this new project aims to achieve?
I am really happy of the DOT.COM waste project as combines some of the results of the CWIT project, particularly the recommendation on the need of better training of enforcement and prosecutors in one of the main areas of my personal interest and work at UNU: capacity building. The DOT.COM WASTE project seeks to increase the capabilities of law enforcement agencies, customs and port authorities, environmental agencies and prosecutors to fight cross-border waste crime more cost-effectively. To achieve this objective, the project aims to increase the stakeholders’ understanding of current waste crime trends and to identify and share good practices for detecting, investigating and prosecuting waste crime activities.
Which aspect of the DOT.COM WASTE project you see as the most challenging one?
I see two main challenges ahead for the DOT.COM WASTE project. The first one is related to the scope of the project itself: there are many waste streams and the challenges of different streams are different. As a consequence also the tools to tackle illegal activities might vary: we will have to identify the priorities in order to be effective.
The second one is related to the duration of the project; the project will translate the knowledge gained into training material and tools and will promote training sessions to help key stakeholders integrate good practices into their day-to-day operations. The project’s underlying objective is to intensify international collaboration through development and implementation of new mechanisms for information exchange, technology transfer and operational coordination. But I really hope that all those efforts will produce effects that will last longer than the two years of the project itself.
I sincerely hope that we will be able to make the difference here!
Thanks a lot Federico for this interview – and talk to you soon at the DOT.COM WASTE kick-off meeting.