Developing Nations Vote 'No' to 'Digital Dump' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 09:17

GENEVA -- A vote that would have permitted electronics equipment manufacturers to send certain types of electronics waste to developing nations for disposal went down in defeat this week.


The draft Guideline on Transboundary Movement of e-Waste would have exempted the shipment of repairable e-waste from industrialized nations to developing countries.

However, a group of developing countries teamed to defeat the measure during the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention in Geneva.

The draft guideline stated that used equipment that is not tested and functional would be considered waste and, if hazardous, would trigger the Basel Convention control procedures requiring at a minimum that all exports of hazardous electronic waste be notified to importing countries, and receive their consent prior to shipment. But because industrialized countries would not agree to the guideline without major exemptions for equipment going for repair, it could not be adopted.

Industry had argued that without lifting the established hazardous waste trade controls, reuse of used equipment would be inhibited. But, says the non-governmental organization Basel Action Network, which advocated for the down vote, supporters 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 the “repair” claim from being used by traders to justify dumping.

"Already, 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’,” said Jim Puckett, executive director of BAN. “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.”

The vote was a defeat for the Information Technology Industry Council, a US based trade group that supported the measure. ITI senior vice president for Environment and Sustainability Rick Goss wrote last week, "Electronics companies operate ... facilities around the world. We want to ensure that the Basel Convention recommendations don’t have unintended consequences of preventing companies from fixing or refitting products that still have useful life in them.  We need to be able to move valuable used products across borders to qualified regional repair and refurbishment centers so these devices can be returned to the marketplace."

“Repair of electronics is a good thing of course,” said Puckett. "But repair 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.  Thus in now 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 provided by the Basel Convention.”




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