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by Coalition Press Release

VANCOUVER, Canada, 23 October  2002  -- Call for Industry and Government Responsibility -- The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) and the Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN), a global watchdog group working to stop the dumping of toxic wastes in developing countries, submitted evidence today that Canada allows exports of toxic electronic waste to Asia in contravention of international law. BAN's findings were featured on CBC TV's Tues., Oct 22 Marketplace broadcast.

SPEC, BAN, the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) and Montreal-based Clean Production Action (CPA) are calling on Canada to immediately ratify an international accord banning such export and to follow Europe's lead and enact provincial and national legislation calling for manufacturer responsibility for managing the end-of-life of electronics products.

BAN coordinator Jim Puckett displayed evidence of Canadian e-waste collected in Guiyu, China, late last year by a BAN team that included Puckett and Chinese-Canadian researcher Clement Lam. One was a tag attached to an obsolete computer printer from the Department of National Defence. Another was a sticker from a Vancouver office of Air Canada. BAN claims the Canadian government is not upholding its Basel Convention obligation to control exports of electronic waste containing hazardous materials such as leachable lead in circuit boards and leaded cathode ray tubes. The exported "e-waste" is dumped in rural Asian communities where it is handled under conditions that jeopardize workers and the environment.

"Canada claims to be a good global citizen, but when it comes to efforts to stem the tide of toxic waste, they are one of the worst players on the global stage," said Puckett. According to BAN, Canada has not only worked against the global adoption of a total ban on the export of hazardous wastes from rich to poor countries, but once it was adopted within the Basel Convention they then worked to try and weaken it. "Now we find they are turning a blind eye to illegal shipments of hazardous e-waste - even to countries that have specifically banned their importation," Puckett said.

In April of 2000 China announced a ban on the importation of e-wastes and waste computers. China recently extended the ban to include more electronic wastes. Under the Basel Convention, Parties to the Convention such as Canada are forbidden from exporting hazardous wastes to countries that have banned their import (such as China), even when such wastes are considered hazardous by the importing state alone.

The European Union has not only banned the export of all hazardous e- wastes by implementing the Basel Ban, but has recently passed directives forcing industry to manage the end-of-life of e- wastes, and phase out toxic compounds in those products.

"Computers are the pop-cans of the cyber-age," said SPEC vice-president Helen Spiegelman. "The difference is that computers and TVs are toxic. Like cans and bottles a generation ago, short-lived consumer electronics end up in landfills. And now we find out they are exported by the shipload to Asia where labour is cheap and environmental standards minimal.

"B C was the first jurisdiction in North America to require producers to take responsibility and recycle beverage containers," said Spiegelman. "Oct 21-27 is Waste Reduction Week in Canada. Now is the time to ask why should computer makers not take responsibility for what happens when the products they sell become obsolete?"

Beverly Thorpe of Clean Production Action points out that "as long as Canada allows foreign dumping, there is little incentive for industry to solve the waste problem through upstream changes that phase-out toxic components and build in design for recycling and longevity."

Gordon Perks of the Toronto Environmental Alliance said existing policy tools available to local and provincial governments are ineffective. "We need to echo the actions taken in Europe and demand Extended Producer Responsibility and toxics phase-outs at a national level."

The Recycling Council of BC is also concerned about growing e-waste in Canada and has compiled Canadian data on e-waste and fostered discussion of regulatory options. "RCBC has long supported the Industry Product Stewardship approach to waste management and prevention," said Karen Asp, RCBC Policy Director.

"Its high time Canada stop aiding its electronics industry at the expense of developing countries or at the expense of local communities," said Spiegelman. "If companies in Europe can agree to this, then why can't Canada?"

More Information:

Helen Spiegelman SPEC 604 736-7732, 604 318-0001
Jim Puckett / Richard Gutierrez BAN 206 652-5555
Clement Lam BAN 604 760-6028
Karen Asp RCBC 604 683-6009 Ext 305
Gordon Perks TEA 416 596-0660
Beverly Thorpe CPA 514 484-8647, 44 208 672 3454(UK) -- For Copies of the report Exporting Harm: The Canadian Story, Photos of Chinese dumping grounds, and Canadian labels, information on Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment. Electronics Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship etc. -- For information on Lower Mainland BC initiatives. -- For information on recycling in BC. -- For information on Clean Production. -- For more information on electronic waste issues. -- For more information on Toronto waste issues


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