15 August 2012

Kenya: New European Union Directive On E-Waste Comes Into Force

Photo: Tommy Trenchard/IRIN
Artisanal diamond miners at work in an open-pit mine in Koidu.

press release

Geneva/Nairobi — The European Union (EU) has adopted new rules on electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), which aim to allow EU member states to combat the illegal export of waste more effectively.

The new directive, which also seeks to improve e-waste recycling levels, drew upon research from a number of sources, including Basel Convention research and data. Recent studies by the Basel Convention on e-waste in Africa have highlighted the ongoing stream of used electrical and electronic equipment reaching the continent from industrialized countries, including the EU member states, for recycling or disposal.

The Basel Convention is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Electrical and electronic equipment can contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, as well brominated flame retardants, which can damage human health and the environment.

Hazardous substances are released during various e-waste dismantling and disposal operations, posing serious health risks to workers.

The new EU directive aims to improve collection schemes in member states, where consumers can return used electronic and electrical items free of charge, thereby increasing the recycling and re-use of products and materials.

The directive introduces a collection target of 45percent of electronic equipment sold that will apply from 2016 and, as a second step from 2019, a target of 65percent of equipment sold, or 85percent of electronic waste generated.

From 2018, the directive will be extended from its current restricted scope, to all categories of electronic waste, subject to an impact assessment beforehand.

The new directive will also oblige exporters to test whether equipment works or not, and provide documents on the nature of shipments that could be thought illegal.

The new rules entered into force on 13 August 2012.

In preparing its proposal for the new directive, the European Commission examined research conducted by the Basel Convention's Co-ordinating Centre for the African Region, based in Nigeria.

The EU also consulted two Basel Convention Country Fact Sheets on e-waste in Nigeria and Ghana.

Studies in Ghana carried out under the Basel Convention's e-waste Africa programme, which has received financial assistance from the EU as well as other donors, revealed that in 2009 around 70 percent of all imports were used electrical and electronic equipment. Around 30 percent of the used equipment was determined to be non-functioning, and hence should have been defined as e-waste.

According to a recent Basel Convention study, the United Kingdom is the dominant exporting country to West Africa of electronic and electrical equipment, followed by France and Germany.

Notes to Editors

About the Basel Convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on 22 March 1989 and entered into force on 5 May 1992. The Convention currently has 179 Parties. The European Union approved the Basel Convention in 1994.

The Basel Convention's e-waste Africa programme aims to enhance the environmental governance of e-wastes and to create favorable social and economic conditions for partnerships and small businesses in the recycling sector in Africa. The Nairobi Declaration on the Environmentally Sound Management of Electrical and Electronic Waste and decision IX/6, adopted by the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, held in Bali, Indonesia in 2008, mandated the Secretariat to implement a programme of activities for the environmentally sound management of e-waste.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Stanley-Jones, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, Tel. +41(0) 22 917 8668 / +41(0) 79 730 4495, Email: msjones@pic.int / SafePlanet@unep.org

Bryan Coll, UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi) on Tel. +254 20 762 3088 / +254 731 666 214, E-mail: unepnewsdesk@unep.org

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