photo by Preston Rhea (Flickr CC)

Last week representatives from over 170 countries met at a UN environmental conference in Colombia to work towards a ban on the exportation of hazardous waste from rich countries to the developing world.

The measure is to ratify an amendment to the Basel Convention, a treaty forged in 1989 with the aim of ensuring that individual states take care of their own waste instead of dumping it in poor countries.

The US, which is the top exporter of e-waste, still hasn’t signed on. The US has no rules for exporting its e-waste, most of which ends up in China as well as in Latin American and African countries.

From the Associated Press:

The issue took center stage in 2006 when hundreds of tons of waste were dumped around the Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan, killing at least 10 people and sickening tens of thousands. The waste came from a tanker chartered by the Dutch commodities trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, which had contracted with a local company to dispose of the waste.

Private companies, mostly US firms, mark toxic waste as exports and ship them to developing countries, avoiding taxes and fees, thereby taking advantage of lax regulations.

Japan has a similar relationship with the Philippines regarding toxic waste:

Up to 1.2 million second-hand televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners were estimated to have entered the Philippines between 2001 and 2005, and, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Philippine Board of Investment, 60-70 per cent of it came from Japan.


In 2008 Greenpeace found toxic waste from companies from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands at a large port in Ghana, where it was handled by child laborers.

Though the latest conference is a step in the right direction, the problem will persist unless all countries agree to a global ban, especially the US.

Read more in the Independent.

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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