Waste activists call for four Rs not just three
The Computer Take-Back Campaign (CTBC) has called for responsibility to be added to the list of three Rs - reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Its comments were addressed to the US Department of Commerce at its Roundtable Discussions on the ‘3Rs Initiative’ and call for an end to a US hazardous waste policy that embraces irresponsible practices such as toxic waste exportation to Asia and using prison labour to process toxic waste in the name of recycling.
The ‘3Rs Initiative’, recently adopted by the G8 at their Sea Island summit in Georgia, calls for the reduction of trade barriers to the international flow of materials for recycling and remanufacturing, and for the cooperation with developing countries for the implementation of recycling projects.
CTBC is wary that the present formulation of the initiative pointedly lacks responsibility so it can be used to perpetuate business-as-usual approaches, such as the global trade in toxic waste to developing countries, all under the auspices of promoting recycling.
“As a country we must build up our own infrastructure to manage our own waste safely while providing needed jobs. We must cease considering developing countries or our prison populations as toxic waste colonies and remember that the principle of environmental justice applies equally to everyone on the planet,” said Sarah Westervelt.
The CTBC also pointed out to the Commerce Department, that the US is the only developed country in the world that has failed to ratify the Basel convention and continues to work to undermine that convention’s decision to ban the export of toxic wastes for disposal and recycling from developed to developing countries.
The ban has been implemented by 30 of the 37 signatories to the convention. However, the US, the world’s most wasteful country, is absent from accepting responsibility. CTBC further note that the US also lags behind Europe and Japan in demanding producer responsibility for taking back electronic wastes at end of life and has failed to present Congress with a plan for ensuring such responsibility.
“Waste management issues are not solved by looking for hiding places downstream, they are solved by preventative measures upstream. We need action from our federal government that provides incentives for producers to phase-out the use of toxics in their processes and products, and eliminates the irresponsible option of outsourcing toxic waste and jobs to Asia,” said Westervelt.
By David Hopkins