Full Life Cycle

NGO Report on SAICM Meeting on Hazardous Substances Within the Life Cycle of Electrical and Electronic Products 

Vienna — March 2011

Introduction and Quick Summary

From March 29 – 31 2011, more than 100 representatives of governments, NGOs and the electronics industry met in Vienna, Austria as an expert group at theInternational Workshop on Hazardous Substances within the Life Cycle of Electrical and Electronic Products, organized under the auspices of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The participants included 32 government representatives from both electronics manufacturing countries (China, Czech Republic, Germany, Indonesia Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam) and countries affected by electronic waste (China, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zambia.) Participating NGOs presented a variety of proposals and the Workshop adopted key recommendations on addressing hazardous chemicals in the lifecycle of electronics for use in developing global decisions and cooperative actions.


The NGO team at the meeting included the following:

Ravi Agarwal, Toxics Link, India

Hua-Mei Chiu, Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan;

Joe DiGangi, IPEN, USA

Mandy Hawes, Worksafe, USA

Shahriar Hossain, Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), Bangladesh

Imogen Pua Ingram, Island Sustainability Alliance, Cook Islands

Jeong-Ok Kong, Korean Institute of Labor Safety and Health, Korea

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, USA

Mark Rossi, Clean Production Action, USA

Sanjiv Pandita, Asia Monitor Resource Centre, Hong Kong

Ted Smith, International Campaign for Responsible Technology, USA

Christoph Streissler, Austrian Chamber of Labor representing the European Trade Union Institute

(Shahriar Hossain, Jim Puckett, Joe DiGangi, Amanda Hawes,

Ted Smith, Jeong-ok Kong, Hua-Mei Chiu, Sanjiv Pandita)


The workshop developed a series of comprehensive recommendations for cooperative action at ICCM3 and called on the world’s governments and industry to address the hazardous life cycle of the electronics industry in three distinct areas: 1) design, 2) production and use, and 3) end of life.  For more information you can visit the Basel Convention website here:



One of the most important outputs of the meeting was agreement on thirteen “key messages” from the meeting.  These messages along with the recommendations from each part of the life cycle will be discussed at SAICM regional meetings (2011), the SAICM Open-ended Working Group meeting (August 2011), and ICCM3 (mid-2012). NGO engagement in all regions will be an important part of advancing a toxics-free future in the electronics sector.


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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The Vienna Electronics Workshop marked a significant milestone – the first time that a UN body has adopted recommendations addressed to the hazardous life cycle of electronics — and reflects 4 decades of struggles to identify and prevent the many hazards throughout the lifecycle of the electronics industry. The first warning signs about electronic hazards appeared in Silicon Valley, California in the mid-1970s when electronics workers started to report chronic illnesses linked to exposures to toxic chemicals in production; environmental pollution was first discovered in the early 1980s when clusters of birth defects and miscarriages were reported following the discovery of groundwater contamination from electronics companies.  Since these ‘early warnings” first surfaced, cancer and reproductive harm in electronics workers and birth defects in their offspring continue to be documented in both developed and developing countries.  Further, pollution and health hazards from e-waste dumping in the developing world were brought to light in 2002.  All of these problems emerged globally as the industry expanded, and governments began to recognize electronic hazards as an emerging issue of concern.  This prompted the African region (53 countries) and Peru to successfully propose hazardous chemicals in electrical and electronic products as a global emerging policy issue in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) in 2009. More than 160 countries followed with resolutions outlining suggestions for recommendations on a way forward. For additional details on the history and background, see the Appendix to this report.

How the Vienna Workshop was organized

The workshop was convened by the Basel Convention, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), SAICM, and Stockholm Convention.  The meeting was structured around three main phases in the lifecycle of electronics: upstream (design); midstream (manufacture and use); and downstream (waste and recycling).

The objectives of the meeting were as follows:


·        To offer a platform to key public and private stakeholders, including academia, to present their work, perspectives and solutions;

·        To promote concrete programmatic synergies among the chemicals and waste conventions and programs;

·        To identify where action is required, at the international and national level, to support, complement, enhance or consolidate existing efforts towards the sound management of harmful chemicals in EEE; and

·        To develop recommendations for consideration by the Open-ended Working Group of SAICM in 2011 and by ICCM 3 in 2012.


The first day of the meeting contained plenary presentations and discussion on each stage of the lifecycle. The second and third day involved division into three working groups (upstream, midstream, and downstream) to develop recommendations for presentation to the plenary as outputs of the meeting.

Chairs of the three working groups included:

Upstream: Ab Stevels, Delf University, Netherlands; Maria Delvin, KemI, Sweden

Midstream: David Kapindula, Ministry of Environment, Zambia; Ted Smith, International Campaign for Responsible Technology, USA

Downstream: Pierre Portas, Waste Management Cooperation Center, France; and Oludayo Dada, Ministry of Environment, Nigeria

NGO participation in the Vienna SAICM meeting

Recognizing the historic opportunity to help shape the policy recommendations at the global level for the first time to address hazards in the full life cycle of electronics, NGOs from around the world came together to develop presentations on the three life cycle stages and to develop a series of draft recommendations.  Coordinated by IPEN and ICRT, NGOs active at each stage of the electronics life cycle created a collaborative process to develop presentations and recommendations.  At the Vienna meeting, NGO presentations in plenary included:

1.      Upstream:  Mark Rossi from Clean Production Action

2.      Midstream: Jeong-ok Kong from Korean Institute of Labor Safety and Health

3.      Downstream: Jim Puckett from Basel Action Network

4.      Joe DiGangi of IPEN presented regional perspectives on hazardous substances in the lifecycle of e-products which described government expectations for the meeting from SAICM regional meetings held in 2009 – 2010


Results: Summary of recommendations from each part of the life cycle

Upstream recommendations

Recommendations in this area included calling on governments and the private sector to track and disclose chemicals in products; develop lists of chemicals of concern; identify and implement substitution strategies; and implement green procurement policies.


Recommendations were made in the following areas:

·        Best practices on chemical information

·        Best practices in business organizational Procedures

·        Chemicals of concern in EE

·        Eco-design and substitution

·        Policy instruments

·        Challenges not addressed above

·        Drivers

·        Stakeholders


Midstream recommendations

Recommendations in this area included promoting pollution prevention including elimination of hazardous chemical use and improving process designs; ensuring subcontractors can protect workers and surrounding communities; development of PRTR; and intensifying health monitoring.


Recommendations were made in the following areas:

·        Environmentally sound manufacturing and capacity building

·        Information

·        Exposure and monitoring

·        Health surveillance and disease prevention

·        Work environment


Downstream recommendations

Recommendations in this area included preventing export of hazardous electrical and electronic equipment to developing countries; capacity building for customs; protection of the informal sector; and free take back programs applied in all regions where extended producer responsibility laws do not apply.


Recommendations were made in the following areas:

·        Policy

·        Legislation

·        Enforcement

·        Information

·        Capacity building

·        Awareness-raising

·        Regional cooperation

·        Synergy approach

·        Voluntary approaches and cooperation on social responsibilities

·        Research and development

·        Investment and fund-raising opportunities


Key Messages

The meeting concluded with the adoption of thirteen Key Messages (see above) that reflect agreed upon core messages by workshop experts at the meeting. These messages are extremely useful in quickly communicating the results of the meeting. The Key Messages also prompt development of actions to address the hazards of the electronics sector. These Messages along with the other recommendations will be discussed and decided upon at SAICM regional meetings in 2011, the SAICM Open-ended Working Group in August 2011, and finally at the 3rd International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) in mid-2012. NGO engagement will be critical in all these meetings to ensure that strong recommendations lead to tangible actions for a toxics-free electronics sector.

(Participants in the SAICM International Workshop on Hazardous Substances within the

Life Cycle of Electrical and Electronic Products meeting in Vienna, March 31, 2011)


(NGO Signing ceremony at the conclusion of the SAICM meeting)


Appendix 1 –Background

·        In the USA in the mid 1970’s, electronics workers, health professionals and other activists convened to address the growing concerns over toxic chemical exposure in the semiconductor industry – this effort led to the formation of the Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health.  These concerns were brought to public attention in a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News in 1980 thereby puncturing the “clean industry” mythology which was being was promoted by the newly emerging high-tech electronics industry (See “The Chemical Handlers”, San Jose Mercury News, April6-8, 1980).  Subsequent occupational illness clusters have been identified in China, Indonesia, Korea, Scotland, Taiwan, and elsewhere;

·        In the USA in 1982, the “clean industry” myth was further shattered with the discovery of serious groundwater contamination from leaking underground solvent storage tanks at Fairchild, IBM, and a host of other Silicon Valley companies, which resulted in US EPA declaring 29 Silicon Valley sites to be “Superfund” sites, the highest concentration of such sites anywhere in the US (See “Clean industry, dirty water”, San Jose Mercury News, July 10-12, 1983).  Since then, water and air contamination from electronics production has been documented in high-tech centers throughout the world; and

·        In 2002, the world learned that huge amounts of hazardous electronic waste or “e-waste” was being exported from the US to China, causing enormous environmental and health problems. This pattern has also been identified in other Asian countries, in Africa and throughout the developing world (See “Exporting Harm: The toxic trashing of Asia” by Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. See also Technology’s Toxic Trash Is Sent to Poor Nations, New York Times, by John Markoff, Monday, February 25, 2002).


In 2008, Peru and the African region (53 countries) nominated hazardous substances in the lifecycle of electrical and electronic products as an emerging policy issue at ICCM2. The topic became one of the four emerging policy issues at ICCM2. The original proposal included convening an international working group of stakeholders that would address the use of toxic substances in electrical and electronic equipment; green product design and procurement; undertake a study of the fate of toxic substances such as flame retardants; and developing a global information database on toxic substances in electrical and electronic products and waste. Proponents of the issue published a background paper for ICCM2 which identifies and highlights issues in the hazardous life cycle of electronics as an emerging policy issue.  Several key findings were noted:


·        The electrical and electronic equipment sector is largely a globalized industry with production and assembly occurring mainly in developed countries and disposal occurring mainly in developing countries;

·        The global growth in electrical and electronic equipment production and consumption has been exponential in the last two decades, fuelled by rapid changes in equipment features and capabilities, product obsolescence, decrease in prices, and the growth in internet use. This has created a large volume of waste or obsolete electrical and electronic equipment (known as e-waste) in developed countries;

·        SAICM recognises the importance of adopting a life cycle approach to chemicals management and for adequate information at all stages of the life cycle, in chemicals in products and illegal international traffic;

·        SAICM emphasizes the need to minimize risks to human health and the environment as well as vulnerable groups subject to exposure to toxic chemicals throughout the life cycle of chemicals;

·        SAICM  aims to ensure that: “information on chemicals throughout their life cycle including where appropriate, chemicals in products, is available, accessible, user friendly, adequate and appropriate to the needs of all stakeholders;

·        There is a lack of labeling and communication mechanisms on the myriad of hazardous substances content of electrical and electronic equipment and waste electrical and electronic equipment along the supply chain to guide stakeholders especially retailers and end users; and reduce risk to human health and the environment;

·        The high turnover in the production of information and communications technology-equipment has caused rapid computer and mobile phone products obsolescence which in turn has generated rapid and uncontrollable high volume of e-waste driving a global e-waste trade.

Delegates at ICCM2 developed a consensus resolution on hazardous substances with the life cycle of electrical and electronic products. Decision II/4D substantially reduced the original proposal and changed the idea of an international working group into a single workshop. Developed (source) countries attacked the proposal and accused the facilitator (Osibanjo from Nigeria) of duplicating efforts under the Basel Convention. Ironically, Osibanjo directs the Basel Convention Resource Center in Nigeria. Decision II/4D notes the importance of environmentally-friendly design, extended producer responsibility, and the lack of capacity to handle electronic wastes. It invited the IOMC organizations (UNEP and others) plus the secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions to convene a single workshop on this topic. The Decision specified that the workshop will include the following:


·        Try to identify and assess where issues of chemicals management occur during the lifespan of electrical and electronic equipment

·        Include green design, green chemistry, recycling and disposal, and Basel and Stockholm Convention requirements in its deliberations

·        Develop a series of options and recommendations for future work through existing mechanisms to the extent possible for consideration at the intersessional meeting and ICCM3


A steering committee was established to develop the meeting with representatives from the following institutions: UNIDO, UNEP, Basel Convention Secretariat, Stockholm Convention Secretariat, SAICM secretariat, UN University STEP Program, Peru, Nigeria, US EPA, EMPA, BAN (Jim Puckett) and IPEN (Joe DiGangi).

In 2009 – 2010, four UN regions held SAICM meetings and all four passed consensus decisions on the electronics sector. The regions were Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC). NGOs in each region worked actively to support the resolutions and subsequent actions. The resolutions specifically requested items to be taken up at the electronics sector workshop and helped push UN agencies into actually planning the workshop. Many important ideas emerged from these resolutions including the following:


Green design and eventual phase-out of harmful substances (Africa, Asia-Pacific, CEE, GRULAC)

Transparency with respect to information; work place, communities, final disposal and recycling (Africa, GRULAC)



Protection of workers and community health throughout the lifecycle (Africa, Asia-Pacific, CEE, GRULAC)

No transfer of environmentally unsound technologies and products prohibited or controlled in developed countries to developing and transition countries (Asia-Pacific, CEE)

Capacity building to promote safety of workers (GRULAC)



Legislative and volunteer extended producer responsibility and free take-back programs (Africa, GRULAC)

Extended producer responsibility including provision of information on hazardous substances (Asia-Pacific, CEE)

Use accreditation and certification standards for recycling to ensure compliance with Basel (Africa, GRULAC)

Develop and apply harmonized tariff codes, model laws, international recycling standards (Africa, GRULAC)

Actions needed to address contaminated sites (Africa, Asia-Pacific, CEE, GRULAC)

Capacity-building for developing and transition countries on recycling and waste management (Africa, Asia-Pacific, CEE, GRULAC)

Training workshops for repair, dismantling, junk facilities; to identify hazardous components (Asia-Pacific CEE)


The full resolutions can be found here:

Africa (53 countries); Annex 1



Asia – Pacific (55 countries); Annex A



Central and Eastern Europe (23 countries); Annex A



Latin America and Caribbean (33 countries); Annex C


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