Important recognition for recycling industry at Basel Convention meeting

The recycling industry last week won the right to play a full part in a Basel Convention group designated to discuss cross-border transport rules for non-functional, used electrical and electronic equipment that is not normally considered waste.

At the ninth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention (OEWG-9) in Geneva, BIR’s Environmental & Technical Director Ross Bartley demanded that the recycling industry was put on an equal footing with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in discussions. The text for parity was then negotiated by the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industry’s Associate Counsel, Director of Government and International Affairs, Eric Harris.*

The OEWG considers scientific and technical issues in preparation for the Basel Conference of the Parties (COP). “Discussions in this forum are very important for the recycling industries as these provide the groundwork for COP decisions that have wide-ranging effects as countries implement and enforce the UN-EP Basel Convention Controls on transboundary movements of wastes and used equipment,” states Mr Bartley.

In Geneva, the OEWG’s Technical Group discussed the specific technical guidelines for wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with 11 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including PCBs, PBBs and PBDEs. Proposals were made to set the low threshold level of POPs in materials, which will affect what materials recyclers may in future recycle given that, above this threshold, POPs in materials will have to be irreversibly transformed or destroyed. A major country that is both party to the Convention and a recycler of much plastic waste expressed the concern that, if the low-POP threshold were set too low, this could mean the destruction of certain recyclable plastics.

Also at the Geneva meeting, the OEWG’s Legal Clarity Group proposed a glossary of terms which could have far-reaching consequences in the writing of new Basel Convention guidelines, as well as in the revision of existing ones. “When tested against the range of wastes listed in the Basel Convention, it was clear more work was required to get a quality document,” says Mr Bartley. “It was decided to continue the work of providing definitions for certain terms and explanations for others.”

Regarding cross-border transport rules for non-functional, used electrical and electronic equipment that is not normally considered waste, the OEWG agreed in Geneva on a two-step approach: on the one hand, all countries agree on the list of seven conditions to be met for export; or, alternatively, conditions could be set on a country-by-country basis. More work on this agreement will be undertaken before the next COP, set for 2015 in Switzerland.

*ISRI is the largest member of BIR’s global network of national federations, and the close collaboration between BIR and ISRI on the Basel Convention issues is an example of successful joint actions that other BIR member associations are invited to follow.

Source www.bir.org

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