Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is defined under the Basel Convention as electrical or electronic equipment that is waste, including all components, sub-assemblies and consumables that are part of the equipment at the time the equipment becomes waste. E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world.

E-waste can be categorized as hazardous or non-hazardous waste under the Basel Convention. When in e-waste there is presence of toxic materials such as mercury, lead or brominated flame retardants e-waste is classified as hazardous waste according to the Basel Convention. E-waste may also contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel and rare materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium. These precious and heavy metals could be recovered, recycled and used as valuable source of secondary raw materials.

The Basel Convention started to address e-waste issues since 2002, when The Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative (MPPI) was adopted by the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention.

The Nairobi Declaration on the Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of Electrical and Electronic Waste was adopted at eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, in 2006, whereby Parties to the Convention agreed to cooperate, among others, to develop policies and strategies, to enhance the environmentally sound collection, separation from household waste, repair, recycling and final disposal of e-waste and to prevent illegal traffic of e-waste.

Decision IX/6, adopted by the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) gave a mandate to the Secretariat to implement a technical assistance work plan to enhance the environmentally sound management of e-waste in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Since then, technical assistance to enhance the ESM e-waste remains a priority area of technical cooperation among Parties to the Convention.

In addition, COP9 established a new partnership: The Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), which was active until COP13, when PACE concluded its activities. A new partnership, The Follow up Partnership to PACE, was established at COP14, in 2019, with a mandate to continue awareness raising activities on e-waste and cooperation on ESM of mobile phones and computing equipment.

At COP15, in 2022, the mandate of the Follow up Partnership to PACE was extended to include, in addition to mobile phones and computing equipment, television screens, video and audio equipment, refrigerators, cooling and heating equipment. The partnership name was changed to reflect the enlarged scope and became “Partnership for Action on Challenges relating to E-waste”, abbreviated PACE II.

At the same meeting, in 2022, the Parties adopted amendments to Annexes II, VIII and IX to the Basel Convention to list both hazardous and non-hazardous e-waste in the Annexes of the Convention. Non-hazardous e-wastes are listed in Annex II with the code Y49 and hazardous e-wastes are listed under a new code in Annex VIII: A1181. Entries B1110 and B4030 were deleted and also the code A1180, which will be substituted by the new code A1181. The amendments will become effective on 1 January 2025. After this date, both hazardous and non-hazardous e-waste transboundary movements will be subject to the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) according to the Basel Convention.