Industry asks for flexible e-waste trade guidelines

New guidelines on transboundary shipments of e-waste could mean significant volumes of used equipment are scrapped rather than repaired or refurbished, the European digital technology industry association has warned.

DigitalEurope is concerned that the guidelines, which are being drawn up under the Basel convention on hazardous waste exports, will lead to electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and parts sent abroad for repair and refurbishment being unnecessarily classified as waste or more tightly controlled hazardous waste.

This would increase shipping costs by up to 50% making it cheaper to buy new equipment, the association says in a position paper released last week.

The guidelines are meant to help national authorities distinguish between equipment that will be reused in some way, waste and hazardous waste.

A survey of DigitalEurope’s members suggests about 118,000 tonnes of digital devices and parts are shipped across borders for repair or refurbishment each year, in a trade worth up to €10bn a year. Around 6% turns out not to be suitable for repair.

Almost 60% of the equipment shipped is still under warranty and most shipments from the EU go to other European countries. A series of regional repair hubs is necessary as the right technical expertise is not always available locally, DigitalEurope says.

Parties to the Basel convention have not yet agreed the exact conditions that EEE equipment would have to meet in order not to qualify as waste. The latest draft of the guidelines, published in December, includes a number of options.

But DigitalEurope has said before it is unhappy with the general approach which assumes used EEE that is not fully functional is waste unless certain conditions are met.

The secretariat to the convention is consulting on the draft until the end of the month. The next version will be presented at a working group meeting in September.

Source: envirocentre