UN system collaborates on electronic waste disposal

Date: Mon, 04/16/2012 - 11:50

ITU and Secretariat of the Basel Convention to protect environment from hazardous e-Waste
UN system collaborates on electronic waste disposal

Developing countries are expecting a surge in e-Waste, with mobile phone waste expected to grow exponentially

Image credited to ITU

International collaboration to promote environmentally sound management of e-waste was strengthened with the signing of an agreement between the Secretariat of the Basel Convention (SBC) and ITU aimed at protecting the environment from the adverse effects of e-Waste.
The rapid spread of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) has raised public attention on the negative effects arising from inadequate disposal and waste management. Electronic waste, which contains toxic materials used in the manufacturing process, can cause widespread damage to the environment and human health. The ITU-SBC collaboration seeks to collect and recycle the hazardous materials by introducing safeguards in the management of the waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), or e-Waste.
Developing countries are expecting a surge in e-Waste, with mobile phone waste expected to grow exponentially. Sharp increases of e-Waste have until now not been matched with policy and regulatory mechanisms nor with infrastructure to cope with the influx in developing countries. Currently, only 13 per cent of e-Waste is reported to be recycled with or without safety procedures.

The issue of e-Waste as an emerging telecommunications policy and regulatory issue has received recognition at the highest level in ITU. Key examples of ITU´s activities in this area include:
• The adoption of Recommendation ITU-T L.1000, “Universal power adapter and charger solution for mobile terminals and other ICT devices”, which dramatically reduces production and cuts the waste produced by mobile chargers.
• The adoption of Recommendation ITU-T L.1100, which details the procedures to be employed when recycling rare metal components included in ICT equipment.
• Designing e-Waste management strategies for environmental protection; publishing and disseminating best practices; and assisting countries in the drafting, adoption and implementation of policies, laws, and regulations related to e-Waste management.

At the level of global environmental policy, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which came into force in 1992, is the most comprehensive environmental agreement on the management of hazardous and other waste. But many countries have not yet successfully translated its provisions into their national legislation. Now, with the signing of the ITU-SBC Administrative Agreement, efforts between both UN mechanisms will be leveraged, maximizing value at the global level and strengthening collaboration between telecommunication/ICT and environmental policy makers for the global good.
“The ICT sector is already making significant progress in improving its environmental performance and reducing e-Waste through improved best practices and standards,” stated ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “The collaboration with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention will allow the global community to address this ever-increasing problem through a holistic approach, involving the recycling industry as well as environmental policy makers.”
“The positive impact of ICT on development, particularly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition is well recognized and acknowledged,” said Mr Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. “However, ICT equipment has to be dealt with in view of its entire life-cycle, and this includes the time when the equipment comes to its end-of-life and becomes e-Waste. Collaboration between ITU and SBC will further our shared objectives in support of sustainable development that essentially includes environmentally sound management of waste.”
ITU and SBC have agreed to cooperate through regular dialogues and meetings; exchange of information, practices, experiences and materials; coordination of activities in areas of mutual interest, including development of green ICT standards, international cooperation and capacity building; and execution of supplementary activities, projects and programmes.


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