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BIR Autumn Round-Tables: Import Controls Not Exclusive to China

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Organization's Environment Council looks at Basel Convention issues.

Recycling Today Staff November 15, 2013

Two of the key recycling-related issues currently occupying the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Basel Convention provided the point of focus for the latest meeting of the Brussels-based  BIR (Bureau of International Recycling) International Environment Council (IEC), held in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 28, 2013.

Guest speaker Joachim Wuttke from the German environmental firm Umweltbundesamt examined the latest information on the UNEP Basel Convention’s framework for the environmentally sound management (ESM) of hazardous waste and other waste as well as draft technical guidelines on the transboundary movements of obsolete electronics, with particular regard to the distinction between waste and nonwaste under the Basel Convention.

In his presentation, Wuttke noted that the objective of the ESM framework was to establish a common understanding of what ESM is; identify tools and strategies to support its implementation; describe the linkages between ESM and transboundary movement; and suggest a set of indicators to monitor progress.

Wuttke noted that voluntary certification schemes “could play a role” in terms of implementation tools, while indicators for verification of performance were being widely sought “even if it is not easy to have good indicators.”

Ross Bartley, BIR environmental and technical director, confirmed that the BIR has been involved in all technical expert group meetings leading up to the finalization of the framework. He also observed that the BIR has funded a study into the ESM of secondary smelters around the world, likely to be published early in 2014, which is intended to establish “the current reality” and challenge suppositions that the ESM of permitted/authorized facilities varies greatly from one country to another.

Regarding draft technical guidelines on transboundary movements of obsolete electronics, Wuttke said discussions surrounding the waste/nonwaste distinction had been “very complicated.” He noted that even the strictest of legislaion would still not prevent illegal exports.

IEC Chairman Olivier François of France’s NV Galloometa, noted that France generated 80,000 pages of new regulations last year, many of them relating to the environment. Although mostly well-intended, such a volume of regulation was impossible to assimilate such that the interpretations adopted and the actions taken by enforcement agencies could not be predicted. As a result, the effects of this “very bad situation” could be “disastrous,” he contended.

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