Long-awaited global ban on exporting hazardous waste to developing countries now enshrined in law

Long-awaited global ban on exporting hazardous waste to developing countries now enshrined in law

December 10, 2019
Marcia González

Electronics and shipping industry labelled ‘shameful’ in seeking exemptions

The Basel Ban Amendment, adopted by the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous and Their Disposal in 1995, became international law on 5 December 2019. The amendment is now ratified by 98 countries – most recently by Costa Rica – and prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from member states of the European Union, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, and Liechtenstein to all other any other country worldwide. As of 5 December, the agreement became a new Article (4a) of the Basel Convention.

The many countries and organizations, including Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network (BAN), that helped create the Basel Ban Amendment can celebrate their persistence. In view of the continuing export of unwanted electronic waste, plastic waste and old ships from North American and European countries to highly polluting operations in Asia and Africa, the ban is seen as relevant today as it was 30 years ago when ships loaded with barrels of toxic waste would lave their deadly cargoes on the beaches of African and Latin American countries.

“The Ban Amendment is the world’s foremost legal landmark for global environmental justice,” said Jim Puckett, who is a confirmed keynote speaker at E-Waste World Conference & Expo, to be held in 2020 at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Germany, on 18-19 November. Puckett has worked for 30 years to achieve and implement the ban, and now directs the Basel Action Network (BAN) from Seattle. “It boldly legislates against a free trade in environmental costs and harm,” he said.

Despite the achievement of the Ban Amendment, Puckett warns that powerful industries – currently the electronics and shipping industries – that have failed to overturn the ban itself, are now trying to change the definition of that to which it applies. They do so, BAN suggests, in order to exempt their products (electronic waste and old ships) from the legal restraints imposed by the Convention and the ban.

“Shamefully, [some] electronics manufacturers are lobbying for the Basel Convention to call non-functional electronics ‘non-waste’ and thus not subject to the Basel Ban if somebody simply declares these wastes as possibly repairable,” said BAN’s Puckett. “Likewise, the shipping industry has run screaming from their Basel responsibilities for old obsolete ships to create their own Hong Kong Convention, designed specifically to perpetuate the dumping of these toxic ships on South Asian beaches.”

Further, noticeably absent from the list of countries having ratified the ban is the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico. The USA, in actual fact, produces the most waste per-capita, but has failed to even ratify the basic Basel Convention while actively opposing the Ban Amendment.

“There can be no excuse for any country to use poorer countries as convenient dumping grounds for their waste, and it is especially ugly to do this in the name of recycling or the circular economy,” Puckett concluded. “With the Ban Amendment now international law, we hope and urge that all countries that have failed to ratify it will reconsider what it means to be global leaders in the age of globalization.”

E-Waste World Conference & Expo 2020 takes place from Wednesday 18 November to Thursday 19 November at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Germany. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com


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