(Jul 12, 2007)

EU aims to prevent toxic dumping by tightening controls

From AP

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - The European Union tightened controls on shipments of waste Thursday aiming to prevent the dumping of toxic products blamed for causing health and environmental problems in Africa and Asia.

''We must have strong and efficient measures at EU level to prevent illegal shipments of waste and to ensure that when waste is shipped for treatment outside the EU, this treatment does not damage to the environment,'' said Stavros Dimas, the EU's environment commissioner.

Under the new rules, EU nations must carry out tougher checks on exports to ensure toxic waste is not shipped beyond Europe. They follow an incident last year when at least 10 people in Ivory Coast died after waste was unloaded from a ship chartered by a Dutch company.

The regulation updates a 1993 EU law which banned the export of a wide range of waste products to developing countries in line with the so-called Basel Agreement on international trade in waste.

The EU says tougher controls are needed because illegal waste exports have continued. In particular, EU spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said shipments of worn out vehicles and old electrical goods presented a major challenge to law enforcement agencies

''A burgeoning recycling industry in India, China and parts of Africa is eager to receive old computer systems to extract some of the working parts and the gold and platinum and copper embedded in them,'' Helfferich told reporters. ''Parts of useless circuit boards are broken into pieces by hand, exposing workers to dangerous substances.''

Traders get round the rules by passing off waste electronics as secondhand goods destined for use in poor nations said Martin Hojsik, a specialist on toxics with the environmental campaign group Greenpeace.

He welcomed the EU's decision to update its rules, but said it was not clear who effective they would be. ''It's hard to tell now if the new legislation will provide better tools,'' he said.

The new EU rules come into force a year after they were approved by EU governments and the European Parliament.

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