OECD waste management guidelines get clearer

Governments debate guidelines for "environmentally sound management" of recovery operations

Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have moved a step closer towards the creation of guidelines on environmentally sound management (ESM) of wastes sent for recovery at a recent workshop held in Vienna. The initiative parallels similar work being undertaken by parties to the UN Basel convention on trade in waste. A series of documents discussed at the OECD meeting should be finalised by early next year, an official told ENDS Daily.

Following a first meeting on ESM held in Mexico in 1999, the Vienna workshop surveyed OECD member country experiences and reviewed draft ESM guidelines for personal computers and draft checklists for competent authorities to check the environmental soundness of recovery facilities, said Henrik Harjula. The workshop's recommendations to continue work on all three fronts have already been considered by the OECD's main working group on waste management policy.

Current work under the programme is focused on priority waste streams, which include substances that can cause environmental problems during recovery or that are widely traded. Mr Harjula said it remained possible that more generic ESM guidelines might be developed in future. Discussions in Vienna included how to incorporate into ESM the concepts of environmental management systems such as ISO 14001 and the EU's Emas scheme. Use of environmental management systems could become a key tool for achieving ESM, Mr Harjula said.

International environmental group the Basel Action Network (BAN) boycotted the workshop, claiming that the OECD was acting in defiance of Basel convention agreements and was failing to give a strong enough priority to waste prevention. Mr Harjula rejected these accusations. Waste generation was projected to increase, he said, and the OECD did have strong programmes on waste minimisation and prevention.

Follow Up:
OECD, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00, and background on ESM; Basel Action Network, tel: + 1 206 720 6426.

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