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Pattaya Daily News

07 August 2010 :: 17:08:16 pm 34675

Toxic Waste Shipped to Third World Countries and Asia

End of life computers, televisions and other electronic equipment are still being sent abroad for dismantling despite a ban on the trade, where workers are being exposed to hazardous substances.
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Despite a ban on the export of old and unused electronic equipment such as Computers, cell phones, televisions etc, ports are still finding hundreds of thousands of equipment being sent from most European countries even though this practice is now considered illegal. They are being sent to makeshift recycling plants in Africa and Asia.

The Dutch customs in Rotterdam is the busiest port and is the front line of the European efforts to stop electronic and electrical equipment from being dumped in the developing world. Customs officials at the port will open a container suspected of being full of waste (old computers etc). If found to contain the E-waste, the containers will be impounded and returned to the country from where it came, along with a fine, is so low it will never be a deterrent.

The port sees more than nine million six meter containers pass through each year with most coming from the EU states including UK and southern Europe and the customs officials will select suspect shipments through profiling, indications, senders and destinations.

The Dutch led the way in cracking down on illegal E-waste exports, and the European Union banned the trade in the mid 1990’s, but only around 3% of containers are checked on arrival at Rotterdam. On average, only one shipment per week may be caught each holding approximately 800 monitors. The numbers of containers that manage to slip through is unknown as some are directed to other European ports with fewer controls.

Sending E-waste to underdeveloped countries is an illicit trade so there is little information on the scale of it, but evidence suggests it is flourishing. The companies responsible for sending the waste out sometimes label the containers as something other than electronics and often hide the waste in the middle of the container. The containers that manage to slip through the net arrive in Ghana and Nigeria in Africa and also South Asia countries such as India and Pakistan.

Valuable metals are found in E-waste which is extracted at makeshift recycling plants, but it also contains heavy metals that are highly toxic and hazardous and handled by workers, mostly children. Once the metals have been extracted, the rest is burnt giving off toxic fumes which is breathed in by the workers every day.

Concerns about dumping in developing world led to the Basel Convention on international movement of hazardous waste in 1989, then, in 1994 the European Community adopted the convention that bans exports of hazardous waste in developing countries. This was meant to complement EU rules that encourage collection and recycling of E-waste within Europe, but by their own admission its rules are only partially effective.

The US which has not joined the Basel Convention is way behind Europe on E-waste and it is estimated that as much as 80% of US E-waste is exported to China through the Hong Kong port. Some European countries have a better record than others in trying to stop illegal exports, but southern EU states are way behind. The Netherlands, UK and other EU states have faced prosecution, but the penalties are not much of a deterrent.

The current laws that are already in place have to be enforced and companies have to be made responsible for what they are doing and pay the costs of the damage they are causing.

Sarah Goldman

Photo : Internet   Category : Society

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