Delegates from 120 nations met in Kenya last week to discuss the growing problem of �e-waste' � discarded computers and other electronic devices that pose risks to human and environmental health through exposure to a variety of toxic chemicals.

Member governments of the Basel Convention on hazardous waste agreed to accelerate efforts to reduce the worldwide trade in electronic wastes, as well as the need to address other issues related to marine pollution and persistent organic pollutants. Priorities will include launching pilot projects to establish take-back systems for used electronic products; strengthening global collaboration on fighting illegal traffickers of such products; and promoting best practices through new technical guidelines.

Ministers and heads of delegations issued a declaration calling for urgent action to address the illegal trade in e-wastes. They recognized the need to improve national policies, controls and enforcement efforts, and urged industry to pursue “green design” by phasing out the need for hazardous components and managing the entire life cycle of products. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was developed in 1989 following a rise in worldwide shipments of toxic waste to developing nations.

Over 120 countries are now members of the Convention, dealing with international shipping of waste, illegal shipments of toxic materials, and technology improvements to reduce toxic chemicals.