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Nations deny e-cycling policy change

Keywords: Tags  scrap, e-cycling, electronic recycling, Basel Action Network, BAN, Jim Puckett, Sean Davidson

NEW YORK — Developing nations have successfully fought off certain Basel Convention policy changes aimed at regulating shipments of electronic recycling products to their countries.

Several countries rejected a move by electronic equipment makers represented by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and developed regions, such as the European Union and North America, "to create loopholes that would allow repairable electronic waste to be exempt from the international Basel Convention hazardous waste trade control procedures," Seattle-based environmental advocacy group Basel Action Network (BAN) said May 8.

"Developing countries cannot control the junk electronic computers, faxes, printers and TVs flooding into their countries from North America and Europe, all in the name of ‘helping the poor’ and ‘bridging the digital divide,’ " BAN executive director Jim Puckett said. "Industrial countries are treating the rest of the world as a digital dump. It is no wonder developing countries do not appreciate industry proposals to make matters worse."

According to the failed draft guideline, put forth this past week at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention in Geneva, any used equipment not tested and functional would be considered waste. If found to contain hazardous substances, Basel Convention control procedures would have been triggered, requiring that—at a minimum—importing countries be notified of all exports of hazardous electronic waste and provide consent prior to shipment. Industrialized countries wouldn’t agree to the proposal if it didn’t include exemptions for equipment destined for repair.

"Industry had argued that without lifting the established hazardous waste trade controls, reuse of used equipment would be inhibited. But they failed to explain how they would prevent a disproportionate burden of the world’s toxic hardware from being transferred to developing countries when toxic parts were discarded, and how they would prevent this ‘repair’ claim from being used by any and every trader to justify dumping," BAN said.

While electronics repair is good, it "can generate wastes when parts are replaced. And without controls, anyone can always make a claim that anything is repairable no matter what the intention," Puckett said. "Thus, in no way can we just blow kisses and say ‘bon voyage’ to shipments of e-waste, based on empty repair promises. We still need the international rules (of) the Basel Convention."

It would be better for the environment if manufacturers tried to create nontoxic components, BAN said.

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