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Bali talks tackle toxic e-waste

A worker dismantles old computers and electronics at E-Parisara, an electronic waste recycling factory in Dobbspet, India, April 11 2008
Much of the e-waste generated in the West ends up in developing nations

An international meeting on waste management has begun in Bali, Indonesia, to highlight the risks of hazardous waste.

Ministers from nearly 170 countries will be considering setting up a new body on electronic and computer waste.

The five-day meeting is expected to focus on the impacts of hazardous waste on human health and livelihoods.

It will also look at the disposal of massive amounts of electronic waste such as old mobile phones.

Reports on all types of hazardous waste - from ship-breaking to mercury poisoning - are also on the agenda of the more than 1,000 delegates attending the meeting.

Opening the conference, Indonesian Environment Minister Rahmat Witoelar said his country was particularly exposed to the illegal dumping of toxic waste.

"Due to its archipelagic nature, with the second longest coastal line in the world, Indonesia is vulnerable to illegal traffic of transboundary hazardous waste," he said.

The meeting is organised under the UN Basel Convention, an international treaty regulating the global trade in hazardous waste with the aim of minimising its generation and movement across borders.

China's waste

The talks come as Greenpeace has been campaigning against the flow of US computer waste to China.

The group says unprotected workers in China melt circuit boards to retrieve precious metals, risking their health.

China has ratified the Basel Convention, but Greenpeace says a large volume of shipping traffic into southern China - often via Hong Kong - makes smuggling into the country easy.

A computer circuit board. File photo
Computer circuit boards are much prized by recyclers in China

Hong Kong has laws against e-waste, but fails to include circuit boards in its definition, the BBC's Vaudine England says.

The US has not ratified the convention.

Participants at the meeting are expected to adopt a "Bali Declaration", highlighting the importance of health and waste management for global development strategies such as reducing poverty.

"As we are all too often reminded, hazardous wastes continue to pose serious risks for human health and the environment," said Basel Convention Executive Secretary Katharina Kummer Peiry.

"It is especially important that this meeting reaffirms the undeniable interdependence between environmentally sound waste management and the achievement of sustainable development, especially for those who need it the most."




SEE ALSO
The many types of hazardous waste
08 Apr 08 |  Business
New e-waste recycling laws begin
01 Jul 07 |  Science/Nature
UN outlines global e-waste goals
06 Mar 07 |  Science/Nature
Help urged for Ivory Coast waste
24 Nov 06 |  Science/Nature
E-waste rules still being flouted
19 Mar 04 |  Science/Nature
Growing concern over India's e-waste
12 Dec 03 |  South Asia

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