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Global Ban on Hazardous Waste Exports Moves Forward

Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Nearly 180 countries agreed last month to accelerate a drive to curtail exports of hazardous waste. The United States is not currently one of those involved in this process, but a new federal strategy on electronics recycling could change that.

According to news sources, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was amended in 1995 to prohibit all exports of hazardous wastes, including discarded electronic products and obsolete ships, from industrialized nations to developing countries. The ban has effectively lain dormant since then, but under a deal sponsored by Indonesia and Switzerland participants have agreed to allow the ban to take effect when 68 countries ratify it. Fifty-one have already done so, and supporters believe the remaining 17 could come on board within the next three years.

In July the Obama administration released a national strategy for electronics stewardship that includes a number of measures affecting exports of electronic waste, which are all but unregulated at the federal level. Among the steps outlined in the strategy is support for ratification of the Basel Convention, which would enable the U.S. to fully participate in discussions on how this agreement is applied to used electronics and e-waste.

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