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Safe Disposal of Electronic Waste Domestically and Internationally

WHEREAS, electronic waste consists of discarded electronic devices that contain a plethora of toxic substances such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominates flame retardant; and

WHEREAS, when these toxins are released they not only damage the environment by contaminating our drinking water and soil, they also cause fatal health effects including birth defects, brain, heart, liver, kidney and skeletal system damage; and

WHEREAS, for decades, developed countries have been exporting their electronic waste to underdeveloped nations, particularly African nations; that have no provisions for the safe handling and disposal of these wastes; and

WHEREAS, hundreds of thousands of people who live in close proximity to electronic waste dumping sites in Africa have endured reduced life expectancy, increases in cancer and birth defects, lead poisoning, chronic nausea, headaches, chest and respiratory problems; and

WHEREAS, in 2012, the United States generated 10 million tons of electronic waste, the majority of which was exported to developing countries such as Ghana and Nigeria or was dumped domestically in or adjacent to low income and minority communities, largely in the southern states; and

WHEREAS, in 1989, to stop the export of the world's hazardous electronic waste to underdeveloped nations, 116 countries drafted and signed the Basel Convention, the original text of which allowed for the export of hazardous waste to developing nations only if the shipments met the notification and consent system implemented; and

WHEREAS, in 1995, the Basel Convention was amended by 78 nations to adopt the "Ban Amendment" which prohibits OCED nations from exporting hazardous waste to non-OCED nations for any reason; and

WHEREAS, only two nations have not yet ratified the Basel Convention in its entirety- Haiti and the United States; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of State has declined to consider ratifying the 1995 Ban Amendment that prohibits any export of hazardous materials to nonĀ­ OCED nations but has instead considered ratification of the original 1989 Basel Convention; and

WHEREAS, it is inappropriate for a government to ratify a treaty but not its most significant amendment; that would be analogous to a new state of the U.S. ratifying the U.S. Constitution but not the Bill of Rights; and

WHEREAS, if the United States ratifies and obseNes the Basel Convention in its entirety, there is a risk that the 10+ million tons of electronic waste generated by the United States every year will all be dumped domestically, particularly in southern U.S. minority communities that lack political power or that are desperate for revenue; and

WHEREAS, in July 2011, to help the U.S. government resolve the electronic waste crisis, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the General Services Administration, published the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, which makes recommendations for the U.S. government to implement to safely and responsibly manage electronic waste domestically and abroad; and

WHEREAS, to achieve safe and responsible electronic waste management, the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship recommended that the United States ratify the Basel Convention, increase capacity for safe domestic electronic waste recycling, explore and promote the safe handling of electronic waste recycled domestically and abroad, and only export electronic waste to nations for which the United States has confidence in the nations' facilities' practices and their environmental, health and safety legal and regulatory regimes.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People requests that President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Congress take steps to secure the United States' ratification and compliance with the Basel Convention in its entirety and adopt and implement both the domestic and international electronic waste disposal recommendations set out in the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.