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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

18 July 2005

Tighter criteria for e-waste export


Dealers and exporters of used electronic equipment will have to comply with tough new criteria to prevent the unauthorised export of hazardous electronic waste (e-waste), the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell announced today.

Special inspectors would ensure the criteria were applied.

Australia has been exporting used electronic equipment worth about $20 million a year in increasingly large volumes to China, India and other Asian countries for scrap metal recovery or refurbishment and then resale.

Senator Campbell said there was increasing concern that such exports may breach legal obligations under the ‘Basel Convention’, which required signatories to ensure that hazardous wastes were not exported unless they could be managed safely in the importing country. If the convention was breached, recipient countries could demand this waste be returned to exporting countries.

"I am concerned with the large and increasing volume of used electronic equipment sent to countries where we know there’s a considerable cottage industry involved in recycling e-waste," he said.

"These operations, in trying to recover copper and precious metals from the equipment, can cause severe pollution to their waterways and air, as well as exposing workers, including children, to harmful heavy metals and other toxins.

"Over the past 18 months my department has been working with representatives of the IT industry, including Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), IT lease companies, recyclers and exporters to develop an acceptable set of clear criteria for defining hazardous e-waste." Senator Campbell said the faster turnover of equipment and high consumer demand presented a serious environmental challenge.

"The result is the e-waste pile growing globally by millions of tonnes every year with too many countries allowing their e-waste to be exported to vulnerable countries," he said.

"We’re all used to having computers and televisions at home and work and think little of throwing them away if they become old or broken. Unfortunately these items can contain some substances that are harmful to health and the environment, so disposal or recycling of them must be done safely."

The Basel Convention is implemented by the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989. Exports and imports of used electronic/electrical equipment can only occur if a permit has been issued under the Act, or assessed using the guidelines as not being a hazardous waste.

Further information and a copy of the guidelines can be found on www.deh.gov.au/settlements/publications/chemicals/hazardous-waste/electronic-paper.html or by calling the Community Information Unit on Freecall 1800 803 772.

Media contacts:
Minister Campbell   Renae Stoikos   (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

Commonwealth of Australia