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Sunday, May 1, 2005

Hazardous waste needs extra effort, confab says

Staff writer

Governments of developed and developing countries should cooperate in monitoring the import and export of waste containing hazardous material to prevent harm to the environment and human health, environment ministers said at an international conference on waste that ended Saturday.

Wrapping up the two-day Ministerial Conference on the 3R Initiative in Tokyo, the chair of the meeting, Environment Minister Yuriko Koike, said trading and proper recycling of waste contribute to efficient use of natural resources and prevent environmental damage.

But ministers and officials at the conference said waste from electronic and electric appliances containing such hazardous materials as lead and mercury can threaten the environment and human health when they are disassembled to recycle parts and dumped without proper treatment.

There was also a report on a case in which used electric appliances on the verge of breaking down were exported from developed countries to South Africa.

Koike said it was significant that environment ministers had the opportunity to listen to such a report.

"Countries need to establish rules regarding the trade of such wastes and who are responsible for them," she told a news conference.

Details of a system and rules for monitoring trade of waste should be discussed at a senior official-level meeting for the followup to the conference to be held by spring 2006, Koike said.

A summary of the conference adopted Saturday included a proposal to lower tariff rates on imported waste, in order to promote recycling and remanufacturing of waste.

While the countries agreed on utilizing wastes, they also emphasized that each nation should make efforts to minimize the amount of waste by promoting the "three Rs," reduction, reuse and recycling of waste.

Noting that waste generated in developing countries has been increasing rapidly in recent years in accordance with their economic growth, ministers said developed countries should transfer expertise and advanced technologies for proper waste management.

To promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling, the participants emphasized that not only governments but also companies, consumers and citizens' groups should make efforts and collaborate with each other.

For example, producers should develop technologies to reduce waste and consumers should review their consumption patterns and be involved in government-level decision-making on waste management, they said.

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The Japan Times

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