The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, effective since 1992, outlaws the export of e-waste from developed to developing countries. Moreover, the parties to the Basel Convention adopted the Ban on Exporting Hazardous Waste to Developing Countries in 1995, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from the members of the EU, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and Liechtenstein to all other countries. The Ban entered into force on 5 December 2019 and 98 countries that have ratified it.
Nonetheless, a substantial amount of obsolete electronics from the developed countries end up in developing countries. It is estimated that 352,474 metric tonnes of electronic waste is illegally shipped from the EU to developing countries each year, most of which is exported to the African region (Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanzania, in particular).
Large economies such as the US, Canada, South Korea, and Japan, to name a few, still have not ratified the ban. Even the countries that have ratified the ban have failed to comply with its provisions. For instance, the UK, which has been a party to the Ban since 1997, is considered to be Europe’s worst offender for the illegal export of e-waste, according to a two-year study that tracked shipments from 10 European countries.
The map below shows the state of e-waste laws and regulations worldwide. This visualisation is based on data from several sources, such as The Global E-waste Monitor
, government websites, and various online media sources.
The UN has also addressed the growing problem of e-waste, often warning of a ‘tsunami of e-waste rolling out over the world.’ A number of global agencies have emphasised the importance of confronting the global e-waste challenge effectively and in a timely manner, including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), International Labour Organisation (ILO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and others.
In March 2018, a number of organisations, including the aforementioned UN agencies, signed a ‘Letter of Intent’ aimed at creating a mechanism for co-ordination and collaboration among stakeholders in tackling e-waste. The document also served as a basis for the creation of the E-waste Coalition, which has the purpose of advocacy, knowledge, and best practice sharing, as well as the development of a common intervention model for the implementation of e-waste policies at the national level.
The signing of the ‘Letter of Intent’ was a major contribution to global e-waste management initiatives; however, the mounting global threat has still not been addressed in an organised and institutionalised manner. To that end, the danger of increasing e-waste has remained overshadowed by other global challenges: During the previous session of the UN General Assembly, no delegation addressed the issue.