‘Unstoppable WEEE Tsunami’ staunched by PPP plan

Governments, ITU, want to transform waste electrical and electronic equipment

Electronic waste dump in China

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and several Central American Governments have decided waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is both a threat to and an opportunity for the region.

A dictionary’s worth of lengthily-be-acronymed groups convened for the ITU/United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Workshop for Capacity Building on Environmentally Responsible Management of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment a couple of weeks back in El Salvador. The results of that meeting, a 20-point communiqué (.DOCX), outline how compliance with a great many global plans and standards will ensure Central America doesn’t become a dumping ground for old electronics, and thereby avoids the environmental consequences that flow from several tons of heavy metals discarded by rich westerners turning up near your food and water supplies.

The meeting was also keen to ensure those tons of stuff aren’t ignored, given the high cost of digging up, transporting, refining and manufacturing the stuff that goes into that mobile phone in your bottom drawer or that old PC you’re about to replace.

Lina Pohl, El Savador’s vice-minister of environment and natural resources, opened the event with the immortal words that “WEEE is a topic of high relevance to this region and the world. We need to act now, before it becomes an ‘unstoppable waste tsunami’ that causes irreversible damage to our health and environment.”

An outcome of the meeting will, it is hoped, be greater recognition of how to manage WEEE and a chance for the region’s governments to turn WEEE into gold through new public-private-partnerships (PPPs) that foster new enterprises to recycle and re-use WEEE .

Miguel Araujo, director of the Basel Convention Regional Center for Central America and Mexico (BCRC-CAM) summed up the meeting’s hoped-for outcome, saying “If we tap into the potential of wide public-private sector partnerships to promote environmentally sound management of WEEE, we will be able to create a vibrant green economy, while reducing poverty, health hazards and risks, climate change and the pressure on our non-renewable resource base.”

Doing so should surely be a piece of piss cake. ®

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