Austria – More than 100 experts from around the world have come together in the first meeting of its kind to set out 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 exposure arising from manufacture, use and recycling of electronic products led governments, the private sector and public interest NGOs to call for a new protocol at a global conference in 2009.
Delegates meeting in Vienna under the umbrella of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) have now developed a series of key recommendations covering: elimination of chemical hazards during design; phasing out the hazardous substance currently used; improved information transparency and flow; measures to ensure protection for workers, communities and consumers; prevention of hazardous electronic waste exports from developed to developing countries; controls over the export and import of near-end-of-life equipment; and measures to take account of the special needs of small island developing states.
The SAICM workshop followed regional meetings at which more than 160 governments had passed resolutions on subjects including green design, information transparency, protection of worker and community health, extended producer responsibility, capacity building and ways of dealing with contaminated sites.
Specific issues addressed in Vienna included the hazardous content of electronic waste, toxic exposure to metals and flame retardants from electronic waste recycling in both developing and developed countries, hazards of incineration and landfilling, the contribution of built-in obsolescence to waste production, externalized cost, dumping of wastes from developed countries in developing countries, and the Basel Ban amendment. Describing the recommendations as ‘a wake-up call’, Mark Rossi, Research Director of Clean Production Action, said: ‘Consumers will demand greener designs that are inherently safer and which prevent harm from the beginning of the supply chain – and smart companies will listen.’
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