Are Low-Income Countries Becoming Digital Dumping Grounds For The Developed World?

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The black plastics are a genre of plastic materials which are often incorporated with a carbon black or allied components, primarily to mask the disadvantages found in the virgin plastics. Apart from undermining the disadvantages, a trace amount of carbon black may yield a higher solvent resistance and efficient ultraviolet stability. The properties may be tuned in accordance with the end-use application by monitoring the size of the carbon particles or by influencing the dispersion of the filler particles in the matrix.

However, as these plastics posses various projections of unique properties, they turn out to be one of the deadliest threats to the environment. If you ask me why, I would say mostly because of the presence of the combination of chemicals or residues of the contaminations in waste electrical and electronic goods, which is not removed in the waste treatment often and instead percolates into our ecosystem.

The directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment coupled with the directive on the restrictions of using few toxic substances in the production of waste electrical and electronic equipment was made into an act by the European Union in the year 2003 and 2005 respectively, to address the management of these plastics material to support sustainability, groom the circular economy and enhance the resource efficacy.

In 2014, the directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment was amended to include efficient waste collection techniques. It was adapted accordingly in response to the emergence of the various source of the waste influx. The European Council also revised the following directive in the year 2013 to include the curtailment of the Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs). BMRs are organobromine compounds that have an inhibitory effect on combustion chemistry and tend to reduce the flammability of products containing them.

The contaminations in waste electrical and electronic goods, which is not removed in the waste treatment often percolates into our ecosystem. Image via Flickr

Due to the presence of the bromine group, when the waste is treated in a heater, the halogen gets liberated in the atmosphere. It causes several complications, such as obesity, breast cancer, and neural misbalance. A more comprehensive and a definitive version of the same were released by the European Council in the year 2019, to upgrade the transparency of the regularity and the legal contents.

Countries like India, China, Japan, South America, the United States and Canada have framed their legislation and regulations around the European Council’s administrative procedures. On an additional note, each country is now cohabitating with each other to lay down certain common production and processing rules and regulations for certain sensitive Brominated Flame Retardants for the international markets.

In 2001, 181 organizations came together to join the Stockholm convention and collaboratively they decided to limit and gradually eliminate the production of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (Resource Futures International, 2001). The agreement was amended the next year, which included the managing and the disposal strategies of the unintentionally produced Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Although Brominated Flame Retardants were not included in the initial repository of chemicals in the primary convention, several of those encompassed by the RoHS Directive was supplemented in modifications that have since come into effect, albeit with exemptions relating to plastic recycling (UNIDO, 2017).

The emergence of the movements in the context of hazardous wastes and their management, including the control of trans-boundary through the Basel Convention in the year 1992 is acknowledged by nearly 185 parties (UNEP, 2014). The United States of America, who was not amongst the members, recently said that owing to the emergence of the enhanced international trade, they would also be signing the directives.

The agreement was framed initially to limit the transition of the hazardous wastes liberated from electronic goods from a developed country to a less developed country. However, one of the prime escape clauses in the Basel Convention is that manufacturers can label the waste products as ‘renewed’ or ‘refurbished’ rather than tagging them as ‘wastes’. As soon as the waste is marked as ‘renewed’, the product automatically transits from one country to another bypassing the necessary terms as directed in the agreement.

Featured image via Flickr
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