Action Alert #2 - COP14
March 28, 2019
The Circular Economy Threatened 
by Basel e-Waste Guidance
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).

Primitive, highly polluting, circuit board smelter spewing dioxins and heavy metals out over dairy cattle in fields below. This site, discovered by BAN in Thailand in February was reported to the Thai government and is now closed following raids on scores of such factories conducted in the Spring of this year. Thailand subsequently imposed an emergency national prohibition against importing any e-waste. Such e-wastes had been imported under the pretense of recycling and repair. The current Guideline on e-waste would make such exports legal and easy. Copyright BAN, 2018
Early this year, BAN released its GPS tracker report from Europe entitled "Holes in the Circular Economy: WEEE Leakage from Europe." In that report BAN identified the EU exporting broken electronic waste equipment to Hong Kong, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and Thailand. We extrapolated that the rates found in our study would equate to 352,474 metric tonnes of e-waste per year leaving the EU for developing countries.
EU Deception
Sadly, the last meetings of the Guideline Expert Working Group, failed utterly to improve things. Worse, trickery was employed in the last hours to pretend to address the issues of concern posed by the developing country delegates. These concerns included limiting the 31(b) loophole to exclude equipment with little remaining residual life, to exclude obsolete equipment such as cathode-ray-tubes, or equipment with banned or extremely hazardous substances, such as LCD displays containing mercury.

The deception was accomplished by the German EU representative insisting that virtually every issue raised could be addressed by putting language into Paragraph 30, and this was done. However, when BAN pointed out that Paragraph 30 states in its chapeau that everything in it is " without prejudice to paragraph 31" and thus would have no effect on the massive gaping loophole that is 31(b), the EU chair refused to address the fact that all of these "accomodations" actually had no effect in closing the fatal "repairables" loophole.
Ban Amendment Ignored
In a final insult to developing countries and the "raison d'etre" of the Basel Convention, all efforts to conform to the Ban Amendment, even in spirit, by managing the imported toxic residual parts and materials from repair operations in Annex VII countries was ignored.
Time to Reject this Corrupted Guideline
It is clear that this EU and industry corrupted Guideline flies in the face of the principles, if not the legal letter, of the Basel Convention and the Ban Amendment, including the principles of national self-sufficiency in waste management, the principle of minimizing transboundary movement of wastes, the principle of prior informed consent, etc. Sadly at this point, it is also all too clear that due to the industry/EU lock on this document, that there will be little chance of correcting it at COP14. Many Parties have tried for years now to reform it to no avail.
BAN therefore, at this juncture calls on all Parties to speak out in the plenary and in regional grouping statements at the upcoming meeting, against the adoption and use of the Guideline.
Alternative Responsible e-Waste Guideline Needed

Rather, due to the circumstances we now find ourselves in, BAN has created an alternative Guideline which we are urging all nations and operators to use that are concerned with NOT undermining the intent of the Basel Convention and maintaining controls and transparency on e-waste trade.

Alternative Responsible e-Waste Guideline Created

The Responsible Guideline on Transboundary Movements of Electrical and Electronic Waste and Used Equipment, in particular regarding the distinction between waste and non-waste under the Basel Convention, will be published by COP14. We urge all Parties to watch for it, and most crucially, make use of it to avoid exacerbating what remains -- a global e-Waste trade crisis.
To adopt the current official version serves only the desires of some powerful electronics manufacturers, and does little to serve developing countries. In short, only one Guideline does not undermine the spirit and intent of the Convention. Reject the old, and embrace the newer, The Responsible e-Waste Guideline.