Exports poison workers
In a report released last week, Greenpeace revealed that waste car batteries from Australia, the US and Britain exported to Third World countries are reprocessed in deplorable conditions.
Visiting lead acid battery smelters in South East Asia and Latin America, Greenpeace discovered factories that were poisoning workers and villagers and contaminating food and water sources.
Australian exports of lead battery scrap to Asian countries averaged 15,000 tonnes per year in 1992 and 1993. The report concluded that a current loophole in international regulations, which allows waste to be exported if it is ostensibly to be recycled, is being exploited by unscrupulous metal traders.
Just last week, following interception by Greenpeace, Philippines environment officials and the Australian embassy in Manila decided that a shipment of toxic computer scrap exported to the Philippines would be returned to Australia. Tests showed the mixed electronic scrap to have four times the acceptable level of toxic cadmium.
Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Finland, Japan and the US — the major sources of the world's waste exports — are expected to block calls for a total ban on the export of toxic waste from OECD to non-OECD countries at the Basel Convention meeting that began on March 21.