Nairobi forum confronts e-waste but puts phone decision on hold

Dec 08, 2006 | 12:23 PM | Paul Schaffer

As governments, environmentalists and manufacturers skirmish over international rules on electronic waste and scrap, recyclers seek a role in the arena while protecting themselves against the "hazardous waste" label.

A Nairobi, Kenya, conference late last month drew participants from the Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and the Bureau of International Recycling. Since the official topic was Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, their mission was a delicate one.

"We have reservations about the Basel Convention (on shipments of risky substances) moving into the realm of recyclables," Eric Harris, ISRI's director of governmental and international affairs, said.

The Nairobi gathering postponed approval of some mobile telephone standards that ISRI had helped shape. "They punted it to the working group for decision at the next conference in two years," a disappointed Harris told AMM. "This is a multi-stakeholder process, in the works for the past four years," involving governments, companies and associations.

"If you overregulate the market, you may deter investment, which is essential to ensuring a sustainable system," Harris said. "If the Basel Convention does want to address electronics, it has to utilize the current electronics recycling infrastructure, which has (benefited from) lessons learned over the past 100 years of recycling."....

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