Mobile phone disposal discussed at UN hazardous waste meeting in Bali

23 June 2008 – The safe disposal of old mobile phones, computer equipment and ships are among the topics being discussed at a United Nations meeting on waste management that kicked off today in Bali, Indonesia.

The ninth meeting of parties to the 1989 Basel Convention is considering new guidelines for getting rid of phones and other “e-waste” in a way that protects both the environment and human health.

“The use of mobile phones has grown exponentially from the first few users in the 1970s, to 1.76 billion in 2004, and more than 3 billion in April 2008,” according to a news released issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Basel Convention. “Sooner or later, these phones will be discarded, whole or in parts.”

Participants at the five-day meeting will look at guidelines proposed by the Basel Convention Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative, which was launched in 2002 and brings mobile phone manufacturers and service providers together with the Convention.

The Bali meeting will also see the launch of the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), which will provide a forum for governments, industry leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia to tackle the disposal of old computer equipment, including through global recycling schemes.

The gathering also coincides with the recent launch by UNEP of a new project to help Côte d’Ivoire and other countries in the region address hazardous waste management, following a 2006 incident of toxic waste dumping by a vessel in Abidjan.

The Secretariat of the Basel Convention is also involved in the negotiations for a new legally binding treaty on the dismantling of obsolete ships, including the promotion of sustainable ship-recycling practices.

“As we are all too often reminded, hazardous wastes continue to pose serious risks for human health and the environment,” said the Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, Katharina Kummer Peiry.

“Yet at the same time, waste management is often excluded from development agendas. I hope that this meeting reaffirms the undeniable link between environmentally sound waste management and sustainable development, especially for those who need it the most,” she added.

There are currently 170 parties to the Basel Convention, which regulates the global movements of hazardous and other wastes, and obligates member countries to manage and dispose of such wastes in an environmentally sound manner.


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