Why Are International Agreements on E-Waste Difficult to Manage

Over the past half century, rapid technological advances in the electrical and electronics industry have revolutionized the world. The amount of electronics has increased at an astonishing rate both in developed countries and in some emerging markets (e.B China and India) [1]. The public, which often perceives the electronics industry as a “green” and high-tech sector, rarely associates it with pollution and toxins. However, the correct and safe disposal of electronic waste requires special devices and techniques to distinguish electronic waste from other types of municipal waste. Despite the significant amounts of recyclable material contained in e-waste, current techniques and management models are limited in their ability to recycle it, given the wide range of e-waste categories, complex physical design and chemical composition, and hazardous components. Thus, only a very small proportion of e-waste was properly treated without causing pollution and health problems [2]. The dismantling of e-waste sites in Asian or African countries is highly contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) listed in the Stockholm Convention, such as: B.: polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (PCDD/F), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) or other toxic substances as follows: polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins and furans (PXDD/F), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals (cadmium, B. mercury, lead, chromium). Electronic waste contains toxic components such as batteries, brominated flame retardants (WCRs), asbestos waste and components containing asbestos, and. B obsolete electrical and electronic equipment (e.g. refrigerators) may contain ozone-depleting gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

Developed countries tend not to recycle e-waste due to lack of facilities, high labor costs and strict environmental regulations, and this waste stream is disposed of in landfills or exported to developing countries [1]. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal prohibits the export of toxic and hazardous wastes to poor countries, and national waste regulations in developed countries restrict landfilling of wastes in order to promote opportunities for recycling and recovery. The heterogeneity of e-waste makes the articles rather ambiguous and contradictory with regard to the regulatory control of transboundary movements of electronic waste. Wastes were divided into two categories in the Basel Convention, namely “hazardous wastes” (Annexes I, III, VIII and IX) and “other wastes” (waste collected from households and ash in incineration plants, Annex II). Article 1 defines hazardous waste as: (a) waste belonging to a category listed in Annex I, unless it does not have any of the characteristics listed in Annex III; and (b) wastes that are not referred to in point (a) but that are defined as hazardous wastes or that are considered hazardous wastes under the national law of the exporting, importing or transiting Party. (Basel Convention, art. 1). In addition, China itself has become one of the world`s largest producers of e-waste.

In China alone, the annual production of household electronic waste reaches about 7 million tons, surpassing the United States as the largest e-waste producing country in 2016 [1]. Approximately 406.8 million units of major household appliances (known in Mandarin as Sijiyinao, including air conditioning, refrigerator, washing machine, television and computer) (see Table 2). The total volume also recorded significant growth at a rate of about 13 to 15% per year [24]. Similarly, only about 10% of this locally produced waste is processed by formal companies, while more than 80% ends up in the informal sector [25]. In addition, a significant amount of e-waste has been kept at home by citizens. Yes, you are right. Electronic waste is a major problem for the environment and also for humans. We need to be aware of that. Thank you for passing on important knowledge to everyone.

Nickolas Themelis, professor emeritus of earth and environmental engineering and director of Columbia University`s Earth Engineering Center, said the best and only large-scale economic recycling done in North America today uses a copper smelter in Canada. He explained that when e-waste is introduced into the copper smelter, precious metals such as silver, gold, platinum, palladium, selenium and others dissolve in molten copper, which acts as a solvent at high temperatures. The resulting impure copper (as it includes other metals) is then sent to a refinery where the pure copper is separated and the other precious metals can be collected. This integrated smelting process combined with refining, although it only recovers metals that dissolve in copper, is a relatively inexpensive method of recovering metals from e-waste. The Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec smelter receives approximately 50,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year. “Noranda`s model with a small [e-waste] collection company in the U.S. and a larger one in Canada and a large foundry could be done in other countries,” Themelis said. “This could be done in China, which already has copper smelters, as well as in America.” A WHO report on e-waste and children`s health and digital landfills, published in June 2021, calls for effective and binding measures to protect the millions of children, adolescents and pregnant women around the world whose health is threatened by the informal treatment of discarded electrical or electronic devices. So far, no uniform international rules have been formulated specifically for the regulation of the global trade in electronic waste. The most important international agreement on transnational trade in electronic waste is the Basel Convention, which entered into force in 1992.

To date, 186 States have signed the Basel Convention. In addition, the Mobile Partnership Initiative (MPPI) for the environmentally sound management of old mobile phones was launched in 2002. .