Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia

More notes: here

After watching this film which was made over a decade ago, I was curious about whether US is still not a party of the Basel Convention. What I found is disturbing: “The United States is not currently a party to the Basel Convention. Although the United States signed the agreement on March 22, 1990, it has not yet ratified the Convention. Therefore, the Basel Convention does not apply in the United States (64 FR 44722; August 17, 1999).” Does this mean the US can still legally export its toxic electronic parts to other countries? Yes, it does. Until US follows the EU’s model by complying to the Basel Convention to not export to other countries, we are postponing dealing with the issues of very toxic materials in our electronics and wastefulness in our consumption habits.

After some digging into what has happened legally since this documentary came out, I found that Ban was adopted in 1994 to address the export of hazardous waste to developing countries. However, ban opponents said the agreement wasn’t a legally binding part of the Basel Convention. US, along with other major countries, have still not ratified the Convention. But now US will have to ratify before Dec. 5, 2019 because now more than 3/4 majority of countries have ratified the bill. US will need to ratify unless it wants to further isolate itself from the global community.

From this Ban article, it reported that: “Still noticeably absent from the list of countries having ratified the ban are the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico. The US produces the most waste per-capita, but has failed to ratified the Basel Convention and has actively opposed the Ban Amendment. According to BAN, this lack of adherence to international waste trade rules has allowed unscrupulous US “recyclers” to export many hundreds of containers of hazardous electronic waste each week to developing countries for so-called recycling. This primitive recycling involves the burning, melting and chemically stripping electronic waste by desperate, unprotected workers in highly polluting operations. Also, of great concern today is the fact that the vast majority of shipping companies send their old ships, full of lead, hazardous asbestos, PCBs, and flammable gases and oils to be run up on beaches in South Asia where they create pollution, occupational disease and death due to fires and explosions.”

Links tegarding Basel Convention and legislation around recycling:
Link to the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes (2001-2009)
Basel Ban on Hazardous Waste Approved 25 Years After its Passage
Over 180 countries — not including the US — agree to restrict global plastic waste trade
Global Ban on Exporting Hazardous Waste to Developing Countries Becomes Law