Posted on 26/04/2018 in category BIR

United Nations: Revision of 'E-waste Technical Guideline' progresses

The 'E-waste Technical Guideline' will inform Governments elaborating national laws for the export and import of E-waste and used equipment that is not waste. This Second Meeting of the UN expert working group on the E-waste guidelines took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 17 to 19 April.

The full name of the 'E-waste Technical Guideline' is the 'Technical guidelines on transboundary movements of electrical and electronic waste and used electrical and electronic equipment, in particular regarding the distinction between waste and non-waste under the Basel Convention'.

The objective of the meeting was to prepare a revised 'E-waste Technical Guideline' for the Inter-Governmental Meeting of Legal and Technical Experts taking place later this year in September. The meeting participants included representatives from countries that are members of the Expert Working Group on the e-waste technical guidelines, and observers notably from the US Government and from various organizations such as BIR. For the recycling industries, Mr. Ross Bartley, BIR Environment and Trade Director, participated in this second meeting of the expert working group on the E-waste guidelines as did Ms. Patricia Whiting represented Sims Recycling Solutions.

'The E-waste Guidelines' were first adopted on an interim basis in 2015 with some controversy as some countries believed certain issues in the Guideline needed further work. Those outstanding issues included that:

  • notification of national restrictions on imports and exports of used electrical and electronic equipment destined for failure analysis, repair or refurbishment was required by Countries to the UN Secretariat;
  • equipment could be classified as waste dependent on its residual life in relation to the life-span of the same kind of new equipment;
  • used equipment transported across borders is compliant with legislation on restrictions of the use of hazardous substances
  • used equipment transported across borders is not an obsolete technology (e.g. Cathode Ray Tube);
  • identification of relevant actors in the documentation needed improving;
  • specific exemptions for medical devices, and used parts were to be discussed;
  • the recovery, recycling or disposed in an environmentally sound manner of waste resulting from failure analysis, repair and refurbishment activities should be ensured whether in the country of import or in another country.

BIR's view is that there will be difficulty in enforcing all elements of the E-waste Technical Guideline as it has become very complex. Besides that the 'E-waste Technical Guideline' extends further than the 'hazardous waste scope' of the 'United Nations Environment Programme's Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal' in setting requirements on goods that are not waste and on companies that are not waste management companies. Furthermore, added financial requirements may dissuade companies that are not per se 'waste management' from establishing themselves in certain countries.

BIR members will be discussing these issues in detail during the upcoming World Recycling Convention in Barcelona (28-30 May 2018) and more specifically at the E-Scrap Committee meeting on Monday 28 May at 15.00 to 16.00 hrs.