Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The Basel Convention on e-waste

FORMER environment minister Mustafa Hussein is engaged in a new bid to raise awareness of the health and environmental hazards linked to e-waste.

According to Hussein, one of the main problems facing the world today is the disposal of electric and electronic gadgets, on which much of modern life depends but whose active use is continually being shortened by the introduction of new, more advanced, products.

Because of the challenges of recycling, industrial nations have developed a tendency to dump their electronic refuse, also known as e-waste, in less-developed nations. To curb this practice, an international agreement, known as the Basel Convention, was opened for signature in 1989. Since then, 181 countries have signed the agreement.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal aims to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between nations. Although the convention does not address the movement of radioactive waste, for example, it has been instrumental in minimising the toxicity of waste and ensuring that environmentally sound disposal is carried out as close as possible to the waste’s origin.

Laptops and cameras, as well as mobile phones and printers, have highly toxic components. If allowed to seep into the environment through traditional waste-disposal methods, these components can be hazardous to health for generations.

According to Hussein, the media has a role to play in raising awareness of the hazards of the random, or unprofessional, disposal of e-waste. Landfill burial and incineration can pose a lasting threat to the environment, and recycling, if not done under strict professional supervision, can also be detrimental to health.

The producers and importers of electrical and electronic gadgets should be part of the effort to recycle and dispose of e-waste, as they have greater access to information about the correct methods of disposal than most members of the public.

The Basel Regional Centre for Training and Technology (BRCTT), which Hussein runs, is affiliated with Cairo University and has launched an initiative for the safe disposal of e-waste. The initiative involves cooperation among various government departments, the media and civil society.

The initiative is part of efforts to implement the Basel Convention in Egypt, thus reducing the amount and toxicity of products generated during the disposal of e-waste and curbing the hazards to those handling the material and the public at large.

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