UN Launches Plan for Safe Disposal of Computers

Old computer equipment can now be disposed in a way that is safe to both human health and the environment, thanks to a new initiative launched June 27 at a United Nations meeting on hazardous waste that wrapped up in Bali, Indonesia.

The Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) will provide a forum for governments, industry leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia to tackle the disposal of old computer equipment, including through global recycling schemes.

Its launch comes at the end of the ninth meeting of parties to the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which met to consider new guidelines for getting rid of old computer equipment, mobile phones, and other "e-waste" in an environmentally sound manner.

Among other things, PACE will develop technical guidelines for proper repair, refurbishing, and recycling of old computer equipment, including criteria for testing, labeling of refurbished equipment, and certification of environmentally sound repair, refurbishment, and recycling facilities.

"All stakeholders, including original equipment manufacturers, consumers, and recyclers, have a role in promoting environmentally sound management of used and end-of-life equipment," according to a news release about the initiative, which said that 100 tons of used computers could generate up to 39 tons of steel and 21 tons of other metals such as copper, aluminum, and gold.

"The technology and skills are available to promote proper repair and refurbishment that can extend use, provide employment, and make valuable equipment available to the poor," it added.

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