Asia Monitor Resource Centre * Basel Action Network *
Citizens of the Earth Taiwan
Clean Production Action * Environment and Social Development Organization
European Trade Union Institute * IPEN * Island Sustainability Alliance
Korean Institute of Labor Safety and Health * Toxics Link
International Campaign for Responsible Technology * Worksafe
For Immediate Release April 12, 2011
Contacts: Ted Smith, International Campaign for Responsible Technology
or Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network
UN expert meeting charts the way forward on
hazardous chemicals in electronic products
Historic meeting addresses entire lifecycle of electronics
(San Jose, California) For the first time, more than 100 experts from around the world gathered in Vienna, Austria to make recommendations for a UN process on reducing and eliminating hazardous chemicals in the design, manufacturing, and end of life stages of electronic products. Concerns over toxic exposures during manufacturing, use, and recycling of electronic products provoked governments, the private sector, and public interest NGOs from around the world to call for the meeting at a global conference in 2009.
“Expectations were high for this meeting,” said Joe DiGangi, IPEN, “and the results from the Vienna workshop provide a comprehensive roadmap that now need to be converted into actions.”
Delegates developed key recommendations including: eliminating chemical hazards during design; phasing-out currently used hazardous substances; improving information transparency and flow; ensuring equal protection of workers, communities, and consumers; preventing export of hazardous electronic wastes from developed to developing countries; controlling export and import of near-end-of-life equipment; and taking the special needs of Small Island Developing States into account.
More than 160 governments had passed resolutions on the workshop topics at regional meetings of theStrategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), with recommendations on green design, information transparency, protection of worker and community health, extended producer responsibility, addressing contaminated sites, and capacity building among others.
Recognizing that many challenges need to be resolved through improved design of new products, recommendations were made on eliminating chemicals of concern, full ingredient disclosure, identifying and implementing substitution strategies, green procurement and extended producer responsibility.
“The Vienna recommendations are a wake-up call for smarter designs that are inherently safer and which prevent harm from the beginning of the supply chain,” said Mark Rossi, Research Director of Clean Production Action. “Consumers will demand greener designs and smart companies will listen.”
The Korean Institute of Labor Safety and Health (Republic of Korea) and the International Labour Organization (Switzerland) presented information on how electronics manufacturing workers and nearby communities are currently being exposed to hazardous chemicals, the types of chemicals causing concern, recognition of adverse effects, controlling exposure, and how the SAICM agreement needs to address these issues.
“Protecting human health during production is more than posters and data sheets,” said Amanda Hawes of Worksafe, based in Oakland, CA. “These new recommendations should begin a move toward a new manufacturing paradigm of true prevention and precaution which needs to be urgently implemented by large companies as well as subcontractors. We need a new model which truly protects workers and community residents.” Additional workshop recommendations included promoting pollution prevention (including elimination of hazardous chemical use) and improving process designs; ensuring that subcontractors protect workers and surrounding communities; development of pollution reporting; and intensifying health monitoring for workers and residents.
Presenters on e-Waste included the Institute for Global Strategies (Japan), Shantou University Medical College (China), and the Basel Action Network (USA). Issues included the hazardous content of electronic waste, toxic exposures from electronic waste recycling in both developing and developed countries from metals and flame retardants, hazards of incineration and landfilling, the role of obsolescence and consumption in waste production, externalized cost, dumping of wastes from developed countries in developing countries, and the Basel Ban amendment among others.
“More than a decade of dumping toxic e-waste needs to stop,” said Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network in Seattle, WA. “The Vienna recommendations provide a package of solutions including enforcement against illegal trafficking in e-waste, clean-up of damage done, and free take back programs available globally to consumers.”
The international workshop on hazardous substances within the life cycle of electronic and electrical products was organized by the Secretariats to the Basel and Stockholm Conventions and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) which hosted the meeting in Vienna. The workshop is part of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global strategy and policy framework to establish sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes by 2020. Delegates included more than 30 government representatives from both manufacturing countries and countries affected by electronic wastes along with representatives from the private sector and public interest NGOs. The Workshop recommendations will be provided for consideration in SAICM regional meetings, a working group meeting in August, and at the 3rd International Conference on Chemicals Management in 2012.
The UN organizers invited key resource people to begin the meeting with presentations to inform delegates of current issues. Soon, presentations as well as the recommendations should be posted here:http://www.basel.int/meetings/wrks-eew-unido/index.html
Key messages of the International Workshop on Hazardous Substances within the Life-cycle of Electrical and Electronic Products
Vienna 29-31 March 2011
The mandate of the “International workshop on hazardous substances within the life-cycle of electrical and electronic products”was to identify and assess where issues relating to the sound management of chemicals arise during the lifespan of electrical and electronic products and todevelop a series of options and recommendations for future work which would be provided to the SAICM Open-ended Working Group and to the International Conference on Chemicals Management at its third session for its consideration and possible cooperative actions.
At this workshop a series of recommendations on upstream, midstream and downstream issues have been developed. The participants of this workshop recognize the following:
1. Preventing harm to human health and the environment from hazardous substances in the life-cycle of electrical and electronic products is essential.
2. The life-cycle approach in the sound management of chemicals found in electrical and electronic products is of key importance.
3. The expected growth in the electrical and electronic sector and the need for its long-term sustainability will require making parallel and proportional improvements in environmental, health and safety, and social justice attributes.
4. Solutions are most efficiently and effectively accomplished upstream and addressing problems upstream can significantly and positively impact other parts of the life-cycle.
5. An increased pace to implement green design and the phase-out of hazardous substances contained in electrical and electronic products is required.
6. The improvement of transparency with respect to information on hazardous substances used in electrical and electronic products for all stakeholders involved in the life-cycle, including consumers, workers, and in communities around manufacturing and disposal sites is necessary.
7. It is important to equally protect consumer, worker and community health throughout the life-cycle of electrical and electronic products.
8. The urgent need to reverse the disproportionate burdening faced by developing countries during the more damaging phases of the life-cycle of electrical and electronic products, including manufacture, trade, waste handling and management, is recognized.
9. The export of hazardous electrical and electronic waste from developed to developing countries and countries with economies in transition needs to be prevented; and export and import of near-end-of-life electrical and electronic products should be controlled.
10. The development and implementation of effective policy and regulatory frameworks and techniques for the safe and environmentally sound management of electrical and electronic waste, and for the remediation of contaminated sites should be encouraged.
11. The development and implementation of best practices and capacity for safe and environmentally sound recycling, including those fractions that are currently not recycled or for which capacity is inadequate, is needed.
12. The different needs of certain regions, e.g. Small Islands Developing States, should be taken into account.
13. Countries should ratify the Stockholm Convention, the Rotterdam Convention, the Basel Convention, the Basel Ban Amendment, ILO conventions and other relevant instruments and transpose these into national laws and implement them.
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