The governments of Switzerland and Ghana have formally proposed controls on the movement of all electronic scrap under the Basel Convention. In their statement of reasoning for proposing this change, the governments point out that “waste electrical and electronic equipment” (or WEEE) that is not treated in an environmentally sound manner harms human health and burdens the environment, including WEEE that is not categorized as hazardous.

The government of Switzerland informally proposed to amend the Basel Convention to reclassify nonhazardous electronic scrap as requiring special consideration under Annex II in spring 2020. On June 1, ISRI submitted comments expressing concern over the way the policy would affect the ability of end-of-life electronics to cross borders for repair and reuse.

“Without clarity on the waste/non-waste distinctions that are the cornerstone of the E-Waste Technical Guidelines … we are concerned that an Annex II categorization for all used electronics will be interpreted as an implicit hazardous categorization by many governments, thus doing more to harm the environment than help because of the disincentive to trade that would come from an over-burdened Prior Informed Consent infrastructure in much of the world,” ISRI Vice President of Advocacy Adina Renee Adler wrote in June.

Adler noted in the letter that ISRI’s electronics recycling members abide by the “highest standards of environmentally sound management as directed to them by third-party certification programs.”

The Basel Convention will continue to invite comments on the Ghana/Switzerland proposal through March 17 and will make them available at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties in July. ISRI’s advocacy team will work with the electronics division to generate comments for review by the parties to the Basel Convention.