Posts

E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

Creative reuse of Used PCBs, Agbogbloshie , February 28, 2014 (Photo by Fairphone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

TOKYO, Japan, January 26, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The volume of discarded electronics in East Asia and Southeast Asia rose nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, and e-waste generation is growing fast both in total volume and per person measures, new United Nations research shows.

The study shows that rising e-waste quantities are even outpacing population growth.

Driven by rising incomes and high demand for new devices and appliances, the average increase in e-waste across all 12 countries and areas analyzed was 63 percent in the five years ending in 2015.

The e-waste totaled 12.3 million tonnes, a weight 2.4 times that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

These calculations are drawn from the first-ever Regional E-waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia compiled by the UN’s think tank, the United Nations University and funded by Japan’s Ministry of Environment.

To conserve resources and avoid serious health and environmental problems, the report urges a crackdown on improper recycling and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, which includes anything with a battery or a cord.

The countries and other jurisdictions covered by the report are: Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

China alone more than doubled its generation of e-waste between 2010 and 2015 to 6.7 million tonnes, up 107 percent.

For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern,” says co-author Ruediger Kuehr of UN University.

Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal,” he warned.

Regionally, the average amount of e-waste generated by each person was about 10 kg in 2015, with the highest generation found in Hong Kong (21.7 kg per person), followed by Singapore (19.95 kg) and Taiwan (19.13 kg).

There were large differences between nations, with Cambodia at 1.10 kg per person, Vietnam, with 1.34 kg, and the Philippines at 1.35 kg per person being the lowest e-waste generators in 2015.

The report cites four main trends responsible for the increasing volumes of electronic waste:

•             More devices: Innovation in technology is driving the introduction of new products, particularly portable electronics, such as tablets, and wearables like smart watches.

•             More consumers: In the East and Southeast Asian region, there are industrializing countries with growing populations, and also rapidly expanding middle classes able to afford more devices.

•             Decreasing usage window: The usage time of devices is getting shorter as rapidly advancing technologies make older products obsolete – for instance flash drives have replaced floppy disks.

Software requirements also play a role in decreased usage time. For instance, there are minimum requirements for computers to run operating software and other applications, and there are “soft factors” such as product fashion, the report states.

As more devices are replaced more rapidly, piles of e-waste grow.

•             Imports: Import of electrical and electronic equipment provides greater availability of products, both new and second-hand, which also increases the e-waste that arises as the devices reach their end of life.

The report warns of improper and illegal e-waste dumping prevalent in most countries in the study, regardless of national e-waste legislation.

Consumers, dismantlers and recyclers are often guilty of illegal dumping, particularly of “open dumping“, where non- functional parts and residues from dismantling and treatment operations are released into the environment, the report points out.

The main reasons for illegal dumping are: lack of awareness, lack of incentives, lack of convenience, the absence of suitable hazardous waste disposal sites, weak governance, and lax enforcement of whatever laws do exist.

The report points to common practices such as open burning, which can cause acute and chronic ill-effects on public health and the environment.

Open burning of e-waste is practiced by informal recyclers when segregating organic and inorganic compounds. For example, they may burn cables to recover the valuable copper.

Though less common, spontaneous combustion can occur at open dumping sites when components such as batteries trigger fires due to short circuits.

Informal recycling, called “backyard recycling,” is a challenge for most developing countries in the region, with a large and growing number of entrepreneurs conducting unlicensed and illegal recycling practices from backyards.

These processes are not only hazardous for the recyclers, their communities and the environment, but they are also inefficient, as they are unable to extract the full value of the processed products, the report points out.

These recyclers recover gold, silver, palladium and copper from printed circuit boards and wires, using solvents such as sulphuric acid for hazardous wet chemical leaching processes, or acid baths, which release toxic fumes.

Open burning and acid bath recycling in the informal sector have serious negative impacts on processers’ occupational health,” co-author Shunichi Honda warns. “In the absence of protective materials such as gloves, glasses, masks, etc., inhalation of and exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances directly affect workers’ health.

Associations have been reported between exposure from improper treatment of e-waste and altered thyroid function, reduced lung function, negative birth outcomes, reduced childhood growth, negative mental health outcomes, impaired cognitive development, cytotoxicity and genotoxicity,” explains Honda.

Indirect exposure to these hazardous substances is also a cause of many health problems, particularly for families of informal recyclers who often live and work in the same location, as well as for communities living in and around the area of informal recycling sites.

The report gives top marks to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. These three jurisdictions have a head-start in the region in establishing e-waste collection and recycling systems. They began to adopt and enforce e-waste specific laws in the late 1990s.

Among the most advanced economies and areas in the region, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also characterized by high per capita e-waste generation, formal collection and recycling infrastructure and relatively strong enforcement.

Hong Kong and Singapore do not have specific e-waste legislation. Instead, these governments collaborate with producers to manage e-waste through public-private partnerships.

As small jurisdictions with large shipping and trade networks, Hong Kong and Singapore must cope with major transboundary movements of e-waste generated domestically, as well as e-waste in transit from other countries.

China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam all have recent e-waste legislation. These four countries are in a transitionphase, with a mix of formal and informal elements in an evolving ecosystem in terms of collection and recycling infrastructure.

Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand have yet to establish legal frameworks for e-waste management. There is an active informal sector in these countries with an established network for collection and import of end-of-life products and their recycling, repair, refurbishment and parts harvesting.

Asia, including the 12 nations and jurisdictions in this new study, is the world’s largest consumer of electrical and electronic equipment, buying nearly half of all such equipment on the market, amounting to 20.62 million tonnes in 2005; and 26.69 million tonnes in 2012.

The increase is striking given the drop in sales of electrical and electronic equipment in Europe and the Americas in 2012 following the global financial crisis.

e-wasteHongKong

A tracking device inside an old printer led investigators from the Seattle-based nonprofit Basel Action Network to this e-waste scrapyard in rural Hong Kong, June 22, 2016. (Photo by Katie Campbell, KCTS/EarthFix) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Billboard- 970x250-min-min

 Create e-waste and clean tech projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations.  Find the right expertise for your e-waste and environmental projects through Maximpact consulting network.  Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

Ranking the Top 10 Global Green Cities

Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Photo by Jean Baptiste Roux) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 SINGAPORE, August 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News ) – Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose city is the greenest of them all? The mirror held up by the corporate strategy consulting firm Solidiance reflects the answer in a new report  that compares the performance of 10 global cities and their green buildings.

To rank these cities’ green building performance, Solidiance developed a set of criteria across four categories. Three focused on the total number of green buildings, their performance and their initiatives, while one category examined each city’s supportive infrastructure, which has a lot to do with fostering a healthy green building movement.

After assessing the 10 Global Cities for green building performance, Paris was determined to be the leader, followed by Singapore and London

Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong came in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, while New York, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai filled in the other four slots.

 “Singapore can certainly be considered a leader in the field of green building. The city target for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030 is ambitious but achievable, and the Singapore Green Building Council will play a key role in delivering this,” said Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, United Kingdom.

 Singapore is the “standout leader” in the Green Building Codes and Targets assessment Solidiance reports. While all the Global Cities have outlined city-level green building codes, only three cities have achieved their green building targets. Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai are the only cities with both a green building code and green building targets set out by the city.

Paris and Singapore took the top spots by excelling in all four assessment categories: city-wide green building landscape, green building efficiency and performance, green building policies and targets, and green city culture and environment.

They were the only cities that ranked within the Top Five in every category.

Both Paris and Singapore have strong building efficiency and performance, which shows that both local and international certification standards are yielding high-performance on green buildings.

 London benefits from high yield of green buildings in the city, which can be linked to the fact that the United Kingdom was the first country ever to introduce a green building certification system.

Paris fell just slightly short of Singapore in the absolute number of green buildings in the city, and by not setting out a clear city-wide green building target.

Although Sydney, Tokyo, and Hong Kong performed well on the green city culture and environment criteria, Sydney and Hong Kong were negatively affected with the poor results they achieved on their green building landscape and performance.

Sydney, with 67, had the fewest absolute number of green buildings in the city.

Finally, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai were the last cities on the Top 10 list. These three cities are among the most recent to join the green building movement, and Solidiance analysts expect that these rankings will change in the future as these newer ‘green building cities’ are setting ambitious targets in order to catch up to other cities’ levels.

Dubai launched its local green building standard last among these 10 Global Cities, in 2010, resulting in fewer locally certified buildings (8th), and only launched its green building regulations and specifications in 2012.

Despite the slow start, Dubai ranks 5th in internationally certified green buildings (104), and has a total of 147 internationally and locally certified green buildings erected on its cityscape. Dubai already ranks 6th for ‘green buildings as a percentage of total buildings’

The current green building development has been focused on new buildings but is shifting towards existing buildings,” said Vincent Cheng, director of building sustainability at ARUP, Hong Kong, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. “For significant progress, the focus of stakeholders in Hong Kong should shift from new to existing buildings which make up the bulk of the building stock. Potentially, more effort can be made to incentivize sustainability for existing buildings, promote microgrid/ renewable systems to reduce dependence on coal-powered electricity, and divert waste from precious landfill space.

When considering the limited number of years that Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have been working to green their built stock, the achievements of these cities are profound, especially when considering the large number of highly internationally-certified buildings currently standing within these cities,” says Solidiance, explaining the rankings.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, United Arab Emirates, states in the study, “It is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications, however, are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. Nonetheless, Dubai does not have a specific certification or rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is used and recognised broadly.”

By contrast, Singapore stood out as a pioneer in the industry by setting forth a comprehensive and bold set of policies and targets for greening the city’s built block.

As a city that has committed to greening 80 percent of its built stock by 2030, Singapore proved to be one of the most ambitious on the list of cities evaluated.

Finally, the assessment of the city-level green initiatives established that both Sydney and Hong Kong have set higher than average carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets amongst the 10 Global Cities, and have also proven themselves as they perform noticeably well with low CO2 emissions city-wide.

 Paris, Sydney, and Singapore take the highest ranking spots with regards to each city’s green building efficiency. This is due to the three cities not only being very low CO2-polluting cities in general, but also because they each have a very low percentage of emissions which can be attributed to the city’s built-environment.

Roughly eight to 10 million new buildings are constructed each year, worldwide, and now more of them are greener than ever before. Solidiance finds that the number of green buildings is doubling every three years as a response to the current accelerating demand for sustainability.

 Michael Scarpf, head of sustainable construction at the Swiss building materials giant LafargeHolcim told Solidiance, “Singapore and London are the cities which have the highest green building activity, and Costa Rica, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are the countries that witness high demand for green building materials.

Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector, accounting for more than 40 percent of global energy use and responsible for an estimated 30 percent of city-wide emissions, calculates Solidance, which points out that buildings also hold the most promise for global energy savings.


 Featured image: Montparnasse Tower views: Les Invalides, Paris, France (Photo by David McSpadden) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Happy Employees Attract SRI Fund Investments

WomanWorkerAssemblyLine

By Sunny Lewis

WARWICK, UK, February 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Google employees enjoy free rides to work at the California company’s headquarters campus, plus breakfast, lunch, and even dinner if they stay late – for free. New dads receive six weeks of paid leave, and moms can take 18 weeks. And Googlers can even bring their pets to work.

Employees at the Silicon Valley Internet giant enjoy free oil changes and car washes, massages and yoga, a play room, back-up child care assistance and $12,000 a year in tuition reimbursement.

Other California tech companies, too, top numerous lists of the best places to work. The California-based business software company Intuit offers education support up to $5,000 a year, as long as the employee’s courses are related to financial services. At the office, employees enjoy a state-of-the-art gym, dry cleaning services and on-site therapeutic massages.

Dr. Onur Kemal Tosun of Warwick Business School points to Pride Transport, a Utah-based trucking company. “It uses employee engagement as a competitive advantage to keep good drivers. Not only is their pay competitive, but they find accommodation for them while they are on the road and help their families while the truckers are away,” he says.

Dr. Tosun has just published a study of 1,585 U.S. corporations and 47 socially responsible investment (SRI) funds in which he quantifies how much more investment from socially responsible funds employee satisfaction attracted. He concluded it was 35 percent.

“This increased investment makes sense as firms investing in their employees signal high corporate social responsibility (CSR), which in turn potentially enhances a firm’s reputation and prestige,” said Tosun, an assistant professor of finance in Warwick Business School at University of Warwick.

“Improvements in this area of CSR have been known to boost loyalty, employee contribution, and motivation through which productivity, firm performance and firm value increase. Naturally, this would draw funds’ investment,” he said.

“Increases in society CSR, such as improving housing in a bad neighborhood by a construction company or covering education fees for local children, also sees firms gain a significant growth in investment,” Tosun explained.

“McDonald’s is a good example,” he said, “it has a society focus CSR. Ronald McDonald House Charities provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation to families while their child is in hospital.”

As it happens, more than 16 percent of the assets under professional management in the United States are in SRI funds. This sector is growing quickly. SRI funds expanded their portfolios about 76 percent over two years – from $3.74 trillion (2012) to $6.57 trillion (2014).

For his study, Tosun created a unique new measure of investment patterns. “I use a comprehensive measure that combines SRI funds’ own CSR perception with corporate CSR scores to explain funds’ investment in these firms,” he explains.

A firm’s CSR score was measured by summing “Strengths” and “Concerns” of each issue area in the “Kinder, Lydenberg, and Domini Index.”

Funds’ CSR sensitivity was evaluated by SRI funds’ investment policy data for positive investment or negative, restricted, investment, available from Bloomberg’s Environmental, Social and Governance Service.

Tosun then combined the CSR score of each company with the CSR sensitivity of each SRI mutual fund investing in that firm.

“My research also shows firms in specific sectors can benefit more from increased CSR efforts, but on the whole CSR investment is a worthwhile endeavor for any firm looking to attract SRI funds,” he says.

But Tosun writes that CSR investments might not improve a fund’s bottom line, although they had higher returns than the market during the crisis period of 2007-2008.

“I show funds having CSR sensitivity underperform the market in general,” he writes, “and fail to improve their portfolio performance after they invest in firms with high CSR.”

The study, “Is Corporate Social Responsibility Sufficient Enough to Explain the Investment by Socially Responsible Funds?” has been submitted for publication to a number of finance journals.

HappyWorkingWomanAward-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.


Main image: Workers on the Scania front axle assembly line (Photo by Scania Group) creative commons license via flickr.
Bottom image: This happy woman works at TimeWarner in the Media Sales division. (Photo by Dylan H.) creative commons license via flickr.

TPP Unites Old Enemies, Makes New Ones

TPPindigenousprotest

Maori (Indigenous New Zealander’s) demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Auckland, February 4, 2016

 

 

 

 

By Sunny Lewis

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, February 9, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “We expect this historic agreement to promote economic growth, support higher-paying jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and to promote transparency, good governance, and strong labor and environmental protections,” declared the ministers of the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries on February 4 as they signed the document that for the first time opens trade across the region.

The TPP eliminates 98 percent of all tariffs among the 12 countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.

The agreement includes former enemies at war as well as overwhelmingly Catholic countries such as Peru and Chile, the Buddhist-Shinto country of Japan, and majority Muslim nations such as Brunei and Malaysia.

But many civil society groups oppose the agreement for a host of reasons. They warn it will undermine environmental protections, human rights, labor rights, indigenous rights and internet freedom, despite official assurances to the contrary.

After more than five years of negotiations, ministers finalized the text at a session in Atlanta, Georgia on October 5, 2015 and agreed to sign it within 90 days. That signing event took place in Auckland on February 4, 2016.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the agreement “will be overwhelmingly positive for New Zealand in supporting more trade and investment, jobs and incomes.”

“TPP will provide much better access for goods and services to more than 800 million people across the TPP countries, which make up 36 percent of global GDP,” said Key. “TPP is our biggest-ever free trade deal and is estimated to boost our economy by at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030.”

“It is New Zealand’s first Free Trade Agreement relationship with five of the TPP countries, including the largest and third-largest economies in the world – the United States and Japan. Successive New Zealand governments have been working to achieve this for 25 years, the prime minister said.

Prime Minister Key views the TPP as not only good for New Zealand, but also for the entire Asia Pacific region.

“Other countries have already signalled an interest in joining TPP and this could lead to even greater regional economic integration. A more prosperous and therefore secure region, is in all of our interests,” Key said.

The next step is for member countries to ratify the TPP so it can take effect.

The agreement can take effect only with the approval of at least six countries, which account for at least 85 percent of the combined gross domestic product of all member nations.

This means that it must be adopted by the legislatures of the two largest TPP economies, the United States and Japan.

Just 71 years ago, the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, as the two nations were bitter enemies locked in a struggle for control of the Pacific during World War II.

But now Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the Trans-Pacific Partnership will allow Japan and the United States together to write the rules for the global economy.

Speaking at an economic forum in Tokyo in October, the day after the long-secret text of the TPP was made public, Abe said, “Rules should not be something that are imposed on you – you make them. The TPP is the structure where Japan and the U.S. can lead in economic rule-making.”

TPPprotestVirginia

The TPP protest movement has been building for years. Here, American workers demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Leesburg, Virginia, September 9, 2012. CWA stands for Communications Workers of America.

 

 

U.S. President Barack Obama said after the document was signed on February 4, “TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific.”

“It eliminates more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on Made in America products,” said Obama. “It promotes a free and open Internet and prevents unfair laws that restrict the free flow of data and information.”

“It includes the strongest labor standards and environmental commitments in history – and, unlike in past agreements, these standards are fully enforceable.”

Fifty years ago, the United States and Vietnam were engaged in a fierce war, and U.S. demonstrations against involvement in the Vietnam war sharply divided the country.

Today, both countries are signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Authorized by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang took part in the signing ceremony in Auckland.

The World Bank’s latest “Taking Stock” report features a special section on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, in which it projects that the TPP is expected to generate considerable benefits for Vietnam, despite “implementation challenges.”

“The recently concluded TPP will not only improve market access, but will also serve as a critical anchor for the next phase of structural reforms in Vietnam.” says Sandeep Mahajan, lead economist for the World Bank Vietnam.

As the TPP economy with the lowest per capita GDP, Vietnam has unique comparative advantages, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing. Simulations suggest that the TPP could add as much as eight percent to Vietnam’s GDP, 17 percent to its real exports, and 12 percent to its capital stock over the next 20 years.

An agreement that opens trade, forges bonds between old enemies, and brings together 800 million people of many different faiths and languages – what could go wrong?

Plenty, according to protesters in some of the TPP countries.

Environmentalists object to language such as this. “3. The Parties further recognize that it is inappropriate to establish or use their environmental laws or other measures in a manner which would constitute a disguised restriction on trade or investment between the Parties.”

A movement of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith and other organizations has escalated its campaign to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership with a joint 1,525-group letter urging the U.S. Congress to oppose the trade agreement.

“As you would expect from a deal negotiated behind closed doors with hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public and the press were shut out, the TPP would reward a handful of well-connected elites at the expense of our economy, environment and public health,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which organized the letter.

The TPP would roll back environmental enforcement provisions found in all U.S. trade agreements since the George W. Bush administration, requiring enforcement of only one out of the seven environmental treaties covered by Bush-era trade agreements, Stamoulis charged in a letter to supporters emailed last week.

“Beyond just failing to mention the term “climate change” in its thousands of pages, the TPP would also provide corporations with new tools for attacking environmental and consumer protections, while simultaneously increasing the export of climate-disrupting fossil fuels,” Stamoulis wrote.

The U.S.-based global climate campaign 350.org called the TPP “a toxic deal that would give dangerous new powers to the fossil fuel industry and pose a serious harm to the climate.”

“The TPP is a fossil fuel industry handout,” said Payal Parekh, 350.org Global Managing Director. “This partnership in pollution gives corporations the right to challenge any local government or community that tries to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

“The deal signed in New Zealand today makes a mockery of the climate agreement decided in Paris last December. If countries are serious about addressing the climate crisis, they need to stand up to coal, oil and gas companies, not reward them with new rights and privileges,” Parekh warned.

350.org is one of many organizations around the world that will be mobilizing members to fight back against the TPP and block its final approval and implementation.

Corporate Accountability International, based in Boston, states, “We oppose the TPP because it prioritizes corporate interests over public health, the environment, human rights, and democracy.”

In Kuala Lumpur in January, some 5,000 Malaysians protested the TPP on Saturday, days before parliament was due to open a debate on the pact.

Many of the demonstrators were from the opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS). They voiced fears that their country could lose control of its economy if it enters the partnership with the United States.

The Canadian nonprofit OpenMedia calls the TPP a “reckless Internet censorship deal.”

“We are planning to grow a global coalition and build an international action platform to turn public opinion against the TPP, country by country. We will jam public consultations, build an international action kit, and support our allies across the globe to kill this agreement once and for all.”

“The TPP won’t come into force until it gets ratified,” says OpenMedia. “That means the final and most crucial phase of the battle begins today.”


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image:  U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (right) attend the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministerial Meeting in Sydney, October 25, 2014. Both men signed the TPP pact February 4, 2016. (Photo by TPP Media Australia) under creative commons license via Flickr
Main image : Maori demonstrators against TPP (Photo by Dominic Hartnett) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 01: American workers demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Leesburg, Virginia, September 9, 2012. CWA stands for Communications Workers of America. (Photo by GlobalTradeWatch) under creative commons license via Flickr

Shipbreaking Moves Off the Beach

ShipbreakingWorkers

SEATTLE, Washington, October 14, 2015 (Maximpact News) – A protest by the environmental justice organization Basel Action Network (BAN) over an obsolete ship owned by Matson, Inc. being sent to a shipbreaker in India, prompted the shipping company to stop scrapping its vessels on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Because of concerns with recycling practices in South Asia, Matson has decided to expressly prohibit recycling of its vessels in this region going forward,” the company said in a statement last month.

Founded in 1882, Matson provides ships goods Pacific-wide, mainly between the Hawaiian islands and the West Coast of North America. The company’s decision affects 23 vessels that will be scrapped over the next few years.

Shipbreaking companies in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to cut ships by hand. They breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos, and fall victim to explosions and accidental crushing. And these crude practices pollute the beaches where the shipbreaking takes place.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, children under the age of 15 make up nearly 20 percent of the shipbreaking workforce in Bangladesh. (see report here)

In September there was an accident on the notorious shipbreaking beach at Chittagong that killed four workers. Five other workers were killed in July, and over 200 deaths have been documented over the past five years.

“Ship owners today can no longer claim ignorance,” said Colby Self, the Green Ship Recycling director at BAN, which is based in Seattle. “They know very well the environmental and human health impacts of their ship recycling decisions, which for too long have been ignored to maximize profits.”

“Matson’s off-the-beach commitment reflects a level of corporate leadership which we hope will be echoed by other U.S. shipping companies,” said Self.

In fact, Matson’s decision is part of a growing awareness among shipping companies of the dangers of on-the-beach shipbreaking and a shift in values toward safer, less toxic ship recycling practices.

The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its 160 members recently voted not to permit Norwegian-owned ships to be scrapped on South Asian beaches.

Other large ship owners that have also adopted more responsible ship recycling policies include German Hapag-Lloyd, Danish Maersk Line, Royal Dutch Boskalis, Canadian CSL Group, and the Singaporean China Navigation Company.

dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh_

Globally, 1,026 ships were dismantled in 2014.

A total of 641 ships, or 74 percent of the total gross tonnage of dismantled ships, were scrapped in the beach shipbreaking yards of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, based in Brussels.

Ships contain both valuable and toxic materials. Old ships are a source of valuable scrap steel for construction industries. In addition, obsolete ships contain aluminum, copper, silver and brass.

But there are toxics in the old ships too: lead; mercury; asbestos; oil sludge; polychlorinated biphenyls; biocidal anti-fouling paint such as tributyltin; bilge water containing oil, urine, detergents and solvents; and ballast water that can contain tiny animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria.

There are greener ways to dismantle ships that keep these toxics out of the environment while recycling the valuable components.

For example, the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas has been operating as a licensed ship recycling, metal processing, and environmental remediation contractor since 2003. The company handles such old vessels as the USS Forrestal, the U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier, commissioned in 1955 but now ready for scrapping.

Jacob Sterling, global head of Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility at Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, is part of the growing consensus that is moving the shipping industry toward greener recycling.

Writing in the publication “gCaptain” last month, Sterling said, “The vast majority of ships are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to be scrapped on the beach. There is something quite wrong with that. People in flip flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong.”

Sterling wrote, “NGOs argue that beaching must end now. We agree. In Maersk Line we have a policy on responsible ship recycling. Since 2006, we have recycled 23 ships responsibly, and we have sent none to the beach.”

But he says private corporations need government support to make this shift. “We really don’t think that the issue of unsafe and unsustainable beaching is well addressed by private companies alone,” Sterling wrote.

He says the real answer is global regulation that raises the legally acceptable minimum standard for ship recycling.

In 2009, the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted. Yet in 2013, only two countries have ratified it, Sterling points out.

“The Hong Kong Convention is not perfect, actually it doesn’t ban beaching, it just makes it a lot harder to scrap ships this way,” wrote Sterling. “But it is the best we have, and if it entered into force, it could be improved over time. So we need more countries to ratify the convention.”

Even before the convention enters into force, it is influencing some South Asian shipbreaking operations to dismantle ships more responsibly.

The Japan-based ship classification company Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, known as ClassNK, has just issued Statements of Compliance (SoC) to two ship recycling facilities in Gujarat, India – the R.L. Kalthia Ship Breaking Pvt. Ltd. and Priya Blue Industries Pvt. Ltd.

The SoCs verify that these two facilities are in line with the Hong Kong Convention.

Although the convention has yet to enter into force, ClassNK said in a statement September 29 that “Kalthia and Priya Blue have both carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid toward safer and greener ship recycling as well as developed the Ship Recycling Facility Plans required for a competent authority’s certification” under the convention.

ScrapMetalCrane


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.


 

Featured image: Jafrabad Chittagong shipbreaking via Wikimedia Commons
Image 01: Shipbreaking workers on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 02: Ships lined up for dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 03: Crane dismantles an obsolete ship at the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas (Photo courtesy Scrap Metal Services)