The Basel Action Network has announced support for a pair of initiatives that would pave the way for more exports of reusable electronics.
In a Nov. 5 press release, the traditionally export-averse group states it is now backing exports of select “high-end electronics” for the purposes of refurbishment and reuse as well as “a more liberal interpretation” of laptop and battery waste determinations under the Basel Convention.
Jim Puckett , BAN’s executive director, explained to E-Scrap News the export-reuse issue emerged as a pressing topic during meetings with the Basel Convention’s Working Group and BAN felt it needed to propose language that would help clarify how and when working electronics may be exported.
“It became very clear in the last three years at Basel Convention meetings that we were at an impasse in finalizing the guidance document which was designed to provide the parties guidance on when used electronic equipment would be considered a waste and when it would not,” Puckett said. “BAN and others felt that this was a case where having no guidance was worse than having a small compromise exception as long as it honored the letter and spirit of the Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment.”
The Basel Convention treaty was initially drafted in the late 1980s with the intent to limit the export of hazardous waste from developed nations to less-developed countries. According to the Basel convention website, there are currently 181 international parties to the treaty, though not all have ratified. The U.S. has signed the treaty but not ratified it.
By inserting an exception into the Basel Convention, the goal is to extend the life cycles of electronics that can be repaired and/or reused.
BAN’s release states, “In BAN’s view, fostering greater reuse rates is compatible with ensuring that developing countries are not used as dumping grounds for electronic waste.”
Willie Cade, who serves as a co-chair and stakeholder on the Convention’s PACE (Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment) group, lauded the move as a step in the right direction for BAN and the industry as a whole.
“I’m happy that BAN has come out in active support of reuse,” Cade said. “With some careful review and study and long conversations, I think it will be very good for the industry to have an environmental group that’s supporting reuse.”
Robin Ingenthron, a staunch reuse advocate and founder of Fair Trade Recycling (formerly WR3A, the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association), also commended BAN’s move, but argued that exports for the purpose of reuse have always been permitted worldwide.
“It’s always good to see an organization like BAN embrace reuse and repair,” Ingenthron said. “However, we note that reuse and repair was already legal for export to any country.” He said the Convention explicitly permits reuse of potentially hazardous devices if they’re repairable and/or reusable.
BAN, which administers e-Stewards certification platform, was founded in 1997 as a group dedicated to preventing illegal exports of hazardous waste to developing countries. The question of exporting reusable devices has long been a gray area within the Convention.
It remains unclear when BAN’s suggested changes will be reviewed for official inclusion in the Convention.