Basel Action Network — Part of the E-Waste Solution
Over the past two days, writer Caryn Green has explained what happens to many of the e-wastes people dispose of when we get new electronics, such as computers, flat screen televisions, and cell phones. She’s introduced us to the Basel Convention, which was written to prohibit the dumping of e-waste and other toxics from wealthier countries to poorer ones. Today, she introduces us to the Basel Action Network, an NGO that promotes the goals of the Basel Convention. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
The Basel Action Network (BAN), is “a global toxic-trade watchdog organization” that works to prevent the dumping of used electronics from wealthy nations to developing nations. With so many companies and charitable organizations offering to collect donations of used computers, flatscreen TVs, and cell phones, consumers are often lulled into the illusion that our used goods will be used for good. Instead, many of them end up dismantled, burned, and dumped in Ghana, China, Nigeria, and other developing nations.
Named for the Basel Convention — the UN-administered agreement that regulates hazardous waste shipment — BAN is the world’s foremost organization focused on confronting the environmental and economic ramifications of toxic trade. Working to prevent disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on the poorest nations, BAN actively promotes sustainable and just solutions to the consumption and waste crisis — banning waste trade, while advocating green, toxic-free design of consumer products.
Why is BAN necessary? Here’s what the BAN website has to say:
There is an ugly underbelly of economic globalisation that few wish to talk about. Under the guise of simply utilizing the “competitive advantage” of cheap labour markets in poorer areas of the world, a disproportionate burden of toxic waste, dangerous products and polluting technologies are currently being exported from rich industrialised countries to poorer developing countries. In effect, rather than being helped to leap-frog over dirty development cycles directly toward clean production methods, developing countries are instead being asked to perpetuate some of the world’s most toxic industries and products and are even asked to become the global dumping ground for much of the world’s toxic wastes.
Supporting the Basel Ban
Working closely with the United Nations Environment Programme as a leading NGO participant, BAN is dedicated to promoting the Basel Ban Amendment Ratifications. The Basel Ban decision imposed a ban on all forms of hazardous waste exports from the 30 wealthiest, most industrialized countries — the membership of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — to all non-OECD countries, effective January 1, 1998.
Following this decision, opponents of the ban — the United States, Australia, Canada, South Korea, and others — sought to undermine it, arguing that it would not be legally binding unless it became part of the Basel Convention through amendment. Citing restraint of trade concerns, the opposing governments, joined by the United States Chamber of Commerce and the International Chamber of Commerce, have launched a lengthy and convoluted international legal fight apparently aimed at delaying compliance.
To learn more about the Basel Ban and Basel Action Network’s efforts to promote ratification, read “The Basel Ban: Triumph over Business as Usual” by Basel Action Network founder, Jim Puckett.
Perhaps surprisingly, even the “take-back” programs provided by some of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers and retailers can’t be trusted, according to BAN. Taking your used electronics “back where you bought it” doesn’t guarantee that it won’t end up as e-waste that’s shipped offshore for dismantling and burning in a developing nation (or that your data won’t be stolen by a criminal half a world away).
To make sure that your electronic discards do not end up harming the planet and the poor, BAN urges consumers to use only licensed e-Steward™ recyclers. The e-Stewards have been vetted by BAN and have agreed not to export hazardous electronics despite the profits that can be made by avoiding the real costs of proper domestic recycling.
Ban administers a fully-accredited, 3rd-party-audited certification program to qualify e-Steward Recyclers to meet the world’s most stringent environmental and social justice criteria for the responsible disposal of electronics. These criteria stipulate that no toxic e-waste is dumped in landfills or incinerators, exported to developing countries, or sent to prison labor operations. It also protects against the unauthorized release of data in private computers.
BAN has four major, ongoing initiatives:
- Definitive Source of Information on Toxic Trade – BAN provides researchers, journalists, and the public with up-to-date information on the toxic waste trade. It serves as the “toxic trade media centre,” providing source materials and published articles. BAN has released groundbreaking research and conducted investigations in developing countries, documenting toxic trade abuses in photos and on film in conjunction with mass media outlets such as CBS 60 Minutes and PBS Frontline.
- International Policy Advocacy – BAN works closely with the United Nations (UN), the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the UNEP Chemicals Program and Governing Council, regularly participating as NGO experts in policy deliberations and other internal meetings. BAN has also produced Model National Legislation on toxic waste trade for developing countries.
- Research and Investigations – BAN produces on-the-ground videos and photographs of the toxic waste trade around the world. The organization conducts field investigations and documents their findings. Two documentary films, Exporting Harm and The Digital Dump: Exporting Reuse and Abuse to Africa are available with a donation to BAN.
- Campaigns – Through coalitions with other NGOs around the world, BAN engages in effective campaigns to stop the dumping of toxic waste in developing nations.
E-Waste Stewardship Project to stop the importation of e-waste in developing nations and to encourage producer responsibility and green design.
Green Ship-breaking to ensure that all hazardous materials are either processed domestically or removed from all US vessels prior to export and scrapping on foreign shores.
Zero Mercury Campaign to adopt an internationally binding treaty to eliminate mercury pollution — its extraction, use, trade, and recycling — particularly in developing countries.
Basel Ban Ratification – Promoting dual action by the US and other nations to ratify both Ban and the treaty, and to block efforts to undermine the Basel Convention.
For More Information
The Basel Action Network
122 S. Jackson Street, Suite 320
Seattle, WA 98104
BAN is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, Washington.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Part 3: Basel Action Network – Part of the E-Waste Solution (Top of Page)