The 10th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention saw a breakthrough decision last week. When it comes to exporting hazardous wastes, including electronic waste, to developing nations 178 parties agreed to make the ban a law. However, there is still needed support from at least 17 countries, including the U.S.
BAN reports that "the deal was brokered by Indonesia and Switzerland and was strongly promoted by the developing countries, China, the European Union and Non-Governmental Organizations including Greenpeace, the Center for International Environmental Law, the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking and the Basel Action Network."
The Ban Amendment will now be enforced as law when 68 of the 90 countries that were part of the 1995 convention that adopted the original amendment ratify the agreement. So far, 51 countries have already done so, and it is expected that the necessary 17 will follow suit within the next 2-3 years.
“Finally, the blockade has been lifted and the Basel Ban that has been held hostage now for many years is liberated,” “The Ban Amendment ensures that developing countries are not convenient dumping grounds for toxic factory waste, obsolete ships containing asbestos, or old computers coming from affluent countries. It enforces the Basel Convention obligation that all countries manage their own hazardous waste," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network, in a press release.
According to BAN, "Already 33 of the 41 developed countries to which the export ban applies have implemented it nationally, but today’s decision means that more countries will feel diplomatic pressure to ratify, and countries such as the United States who have never ratified the Convention will have to accept the ban as an integral part of the Convention once it enters force."
Exporting wastes to developing nations is easier and cheaper for many nations in the short term, but will be a long term disaster as these areas are polluted possibly beyond repair. E-waste dumps in developing nations are responsible for untold pollution of the air, water and soil, and the health impacts on local people as well as the greater surrounding area is not nearly worth the money saved through exporting to these locations rather than using recycling facilities in developed countries.
Regulating and banning exports will require developed countries to take a stronger look at how we create electronics, how we use them, and how we treat them at end of life. Significant changes are needed immediately to address the lack of recycling that actually occurs.
The Independent reports, "The UN has estimated that, worldwide, up to 50 million tons of electrical and electronic goods which had come to the end of their lives were being thrown away every year – of which only 10 per cent is recycled – and often end up in landfills in developing countries. Up to 1.2 million second-hand televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners were estimated to have entered the Philippines between 2001 and 2005, and, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Philippine Board of Investment, 60-70 per cent of it came from Japan."
The US is the world's largest exporter of electronic waste, and yet is has not yet ratified the original convention.
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