A programme of action in the Asia-Pacific region to dispose of electrical and electronic waste in an environmentally sound way and stop its illegal trafficking was launched today, with the support of the United Nations Environmental Programme's (UNEP) Basel Convention Regional Centres in China, Indonesia and Samoa.

Due to rapid industrialization, several developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region need to access large quantities of secondary raw materials, the Basel Convention Secretariat said. As a result, large amounts of used and end-of-life electronic wastes are being sent to them for recycling, recovery and refurbishment of non-ferrous and precious metals at facilities which do not always meet high environmental standards, it said.

The 160-State Basel Convention is the world's most comprehensive environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes. Governments are expected to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes, treat and dispose of wastes as close as possible to their place of generation and reduce the quantities transported.

"The proper implementation of the Basel Convention ensures that hazardous e-waste be managed in an environmentally sound manner as it provides the tools for the transparency and traceability of e-wastes destined for recycling or recovery," Basel Convention Executive Secretary Sachiko Kuwabara-Yamamoto told a meeting of some 100 representatives from governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and industry. The development of international resource recycling systems would have to be combined with a mechanism capable of monitoring such systems to ensure their accountability, she said. That could not be achieved, however, without intensified international efforts to help developing countries strengthen their capacity to implement the Convention.

The launch was hosted by the Government of Japan, which made an initial pledge of $300,000 to the programme, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal and the Japanese National Institute for Environmental Studies.