Since first taking effect in the early 1990s, the Basel Convention has reduced the movement of hazardous waste between countries, playing an important role in reducing environmental pollution. The regulatory framework has seen several amendments over the years, including the designation of plastic waste as a regulated material in 2019. The most recent amendment focuses on e-waste and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025. Here’s a closer look at the changes the amendment will bring.
Currently, materials regulated by the Basel Convention are classified as either green or red light items. Green light items are deemed non-hazardous, and can therefore move freely between Basel party nations without prior informed consent (PIC). These include electronic components that will be repaired or refurbished.
Red light items, on the other hand, carry known hazards. The red light list includes e-waste contaminated with substances that can pose risks to the environment or life forms, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and polychlorinated biphenyls.
Now, an amendment that was initially proposed by Ghana and Switzerland in 2020 has been approved by the Basel Conference of the Parties (COP), which will create a new yellow list. Items on the yellow list aren’t automatically deemed hazardous, but will require special consideration. This will include all non-hazardous e-waste previously classified as green light items. Only items that are being dismantled and entering into e-scrap streams will be affected, however; there will still be an exception for items being processed for reuse.
How will the amendment affect e-waste?
The electronics recycling industry is no stranger to regulatory changes, and e-waste recycling facilities have had to keep pace with significant shifts over the years. Previously, compliance with regulations such as OECD took priority, as they were stricter and broader in scope, thereby overriding the Basel Convention. With this shift, however, Basel will likely override other regulations.
As of 2025, countries in the Basel convention will no longer be able to export yellow-light items without PIC. This will significantly increase the administrative burden of exports for countries within the Basel Convention, including increased paperwork. For non-Basel countries, such as the U.S., the transfer of non-hazardous e-scrap will become all but impossible. There are exceptions in place for countries that already have agreements with the U.S. through OECD, however.
The Call for Circulation Solutions
Recent changes to the Basel Convention are just one more reason why Canada and other developed nations must adopt circular solutions for handling e-waste domestically. The priority should continue to be maximizing reuse and refurbishment and minimizing our contributions to landfills. When devices finally do reach the end of their lifespan, ensuring they’re processed through the proper channels is critical not only for compliance with the Basel Convention, but also for securing a more sustainable future for our planet.
Quantum is certified in all applicable industry regulations to help your company handle e-waste safely and compliantly. Find out more about our comprehensive recycling solutions here.