Govt crackdown on e-waste exports
by The Sydney Morning Herald
19 July 2005 (Canberra) – Dealers and exporters of used electronic equipment face tough new criteria to prevent the unauthorised export of hazardous electronic waste (e-waste), the Federal Government says. Environment Minister Ian Campbell said special inspectors would ensure the criteria were applied.
"I am concerned with the large and increasing volume of used electronic equipment sent to countries where we know there's a considerable cottage industry involved in recycling e-waste," Senator Campbell said in a statement yesterday.
"These operations, in trying to recover copper and precious metals from the equipment, can cause severe pollution to their waterways and air, as well as exposing workers, including children, to harmful heavy metals and other toxins.
"Over the past 18 months my department has been working with representatives of the IT industry, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), IT lease companies, recyclers and exporters to develop an acceptable set of clear criteria for defining hazardous e-waste."
Senator Campbell said Australia had been exporting used electronic equipment worth about $20 million a year in increasingly large volumes to China, India and other Asian countries for scrap metal recovery or refurbishment and then resale.
There was increasing concern that such exports breached legal obligations under the Basel Convention, which required signatories to ensure that hazardous wastes were not exported unless they could be managed safely in the importing country.
"If the convention was breached, recipient countries could demand this waste be returned to exporting countries," Senator Campbell said.
He said the faster turnover of equipment and high consumer demand presented a serious environmental challenge.
"The result is the e-waste pile growing globally by millions of tonnes every year with too many countries allowing their e-waste to be exported to vulnerable countries," he said.
"We're all used to having computers and televisions at home and work and think little of throwing them away if they become old or broken.
"Unfortunately these items can contain some substances that are harmful to health and the environment, so disposal or recycling of them must be done safely."
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