Fatal Flaw: The "Repairables" Loophole
Even as countries around the world such as Thailand, Vietnam, Nigeria, Malaysa, and Hong Kong (China) are getting slammed with massive e-waste shipments posing as benign recyclables or repairables, the Basel Convention Parties are poised to finally adopt at COP14, what will be a massive loophole, exempting what could be a majority of the world's e-waste from the Basel Convention.
The loophole is found in Paragraph 31(b) of the latest version of the Guidelines. If adopted with this paragraph, the Guideline will allow unscrupulous traders to export all manner of hazardous, broken or untested consumer electronics
outside of the control procedures of the Basel Convention simply by making a claim of "
export for repair". But BEWARE!,
all electronic equipment can be called "repairable" and almost all actual exports for repair involve exports of non-functional parts
which are waste upon arrival.
Electronics Industry and EU: Unholy Alliance
The earlier PACE and the MPPI Guidelines never allowed non-functional equipment to be declared as non-waste. It was universally agreed that doing so would be a very bad idea. Sadly, however the electronics manufacturers discovered these older guidelines and worked to reverse them in the overarching technical guidelines on e-waste. The reversal of Basel norms which erase Basel Convention controls for e-waste is unfortunately the recent achievement of the electronics manufacturers (Digital Europe and ITI) in the latest draft. However, this corrupt notion would never have had a chance were it not for the sudden reversal and unyielding lobby pressure applied by Germany, Belgium, and the European Commission on behalf of the entire European Union, who seem to consider doing the bidding of the electronics industry as their mandate even as this new guidance runs contrary to EU law (WEEE directive and Waste Shipment Regulation).
This industry promoted loophole makes the Guideline contradictory to the Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment simply because electronic products at end-of-life are in scientific fact -- usually hazardous and must be managed via recycling and repair involving recycling of hazardous parts. But, rather than putting effort into making their products non-toxic and thus legitimately fall outside of the scope of the Basel Convention, the manufacturers have instead chosen to subvert the international treaty and its scientific definitions by removing toxic e-wastes from its scope redefining anything considered hazardous repairables as non-waste.
Corruption of the Circular Economy
Ironically, this move subverts all efforts to convince the world to move more aggressively to a circular economy -- the stated aim of the EU and the electronics industry. The architects of the circular economy concept, warn against allowing externalities which can subvert the circularity. If the 31(b) "Repairables Loophole" is sanctioned by Basel guidance and exploited by traders, the "circular economy" will be identified as yet another corrupt "buzzword" to institutionalize gross externalities, "leakage", and global irresponsibility -- providing benefits for developed countries at the expense of the global south.
Belies Current Events
Last year, Thailand was forced, on an emergency basis, to raid and shut down scores of e-waste import factories that have sprung up across the Thai rural landscape -- all claiming to provide recycling and re-use for discarded electronics. The factories, several of which were discovered by BAN's GPS trackers, are veritable dioxin factories, crudely breaking down and then smelting circuit boards while spewing dioxins, furans, heavy metals, and PAHs across the landscape (see photo).