Computer Giants and UN Join Forces to Tackle E-Waste

Date: March 7, 2007

Source: News Room

Several major companies including Cisco Systems, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft have joined the United Nations in a consortium to address the growing problem of electronics waste. The goal of the initiative, called "Solving the E-waste Problem" (StEP), will be to create global standards for recycling, extending the life of products, creating markets for their reuse, and harmonizing world legislation and policy toward e-waste.

"We want to get a set of projects running in the next six months," said Christian Hagelueken, senior manager for Brussels-based Umicore SA, the world's largest precious metals recycler. "The idea is to collect data and work in harmony. In Europe, for example, you have 29 nations with their own legislation."

However, the Basel Action Network has critisized the program which it says violates the UN's Basel Convention by legitimizing the practice of exporting hazardous e-waste from developed countries to developing ones.

Electronic appliances often contain precious metals as well as rare elements such as indium and bismuth whose prices have doubled since 2005 because so few electronic devices are recycled. The UN Environmental Program is also concerned about toxins released into the air by burning plastic and wire insulation, and pollutants including lead and mercury that enter the water and soil when electronic devices are put in landfills.

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