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Transboundary Waste Agreements

This was previously a major area of abuse, with industrial countries exporting their hazardous waste to developing countries. Since the 1990s, however, every country except the USA has complied to the international treaties and conventions limiting the transboundary movement of hazardous waste.

There are a number of international agreements governing the transboundary movement of wastes under international law, including: Basel, Bamako, and Lomé.

Basel Convention

1. The Basel Convention (1989) defines hazardous wastes as any category of waste listed in Annex I to the Convention, provided they possess the characteristics set out in Annex 3. The definition allows for an extension to include wastes deemed hazardous under legislation of export, import and transit parties. The Basle Convention does not apply to radioactive wastes which are subject to other international control systems.

2. The Bamako Convention (1991) defines hazardous wastes as those covered by Annex I (a combination of the Basle Convention Annexes I and II), wastes defined as hazardous by the law of the importing, exporting or transit nations, and wastes which have been banned or refused registration by government regulatory action.

3. The Lomé Convention (1989) includes wastes listed in the Basel Convention Annexes I and II, and specifically includes radioactive wastes.

Other Treaties and Conventions concerning Hazardous Substances

  • Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, Basel, 1989.
  • Hazardous waste
    Hazardous waste: breaking ships is profitable but dangerous - heavy metals and asbestos are prevalent
  • Convention on Civil Liability for Damage Caused during Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, Rail, and Inland Navigation Vessels (CRTD), Geneva, 1989.
  • Convention on the ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movements and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa, Bamako, 1991.
  • Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, Helsinki, 1992.
  • Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, Rotterdam Convention, 1998.
  • European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (AND), Geneva, 2000.
  • European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR), Geneva, 1957.
  • FAO International Code of Conduct on the distribution and use of Pesticides, Rome, 1985.
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants Stockholm, 2001.
  • Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region, Waigani, 1995.
  • Minamata Convention on Mercury, Minamata 2013.

Basel Convention

1989, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

The Basel Convention is an international treaty governing the transboundary movements of hazardous waste. It is designed primarily to prevent the transfer of hazardous waste from more developed countries (MDCs) to less developed countries (LDCs).

The Basel Convention does not cover the movement of radioactive waste. The reason is that radioactive waste is covered by other treaties and agreements.

It seeks to limit the quantities and degrees of toxicity generated, and to ensure their sound environmental management, at or as close as possible to their place of generation.

182 states are party to the convention, but the United States have not ratified it.

Download: Basel Convention - English (pdf 205 kB)

Bamako Convention

The Bamako Convention on the ban on the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa, 1991.

The Bamako Convention is a treaty by 12 African nations, agreed in 1991, coming into force in 1999, prohibiting the import of hazardous wastes, as listed in the Basel Convention (1989), with the addition of radioactive waste.

The Bamako convention is similar to the Basel Convention, but more stringent on its requirements of participating parties.

Related to: Guidelines and Principles for the Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Wastes adopted by the Governing Council of the United Nationals Environment Programme (UNEP) by Decision 14/30 (17.06.87)

Recommendations of the UN Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (1957 and biennial updates).

Charter of Human Rights,

Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972)

African convention of the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Algiers (1968).

World Charter for Nature, UN General Assembly (1982), as rule of ethics in respect of the protection of the human environment and conservation of natural resources.

Article 4: General Obligations:

1. Hazardous Waste Import Ban: prohibition of import to area of jurisdiction of participating parties by non-contracting parties.

2. Ban on dumping of hazardous waste at sea and internal waters.

3. Waste generation in Africa: generators are subject to notification and audit restrictions, liability, obligation to minimise (while taking into account social, technological and economic aspects), provision of adequate treatment/disposal facilities, prevention and control of pollution arising, and protection of human health and the environment.

The London Convention Protocol (1996)

The 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, commonly called the "London Convention", was replaced by the 1996 Protocol.

The London Convention forbids most forms of ocean dumping.

Download: Bamako Convention full text - English (pdf 71 kB)

Rotterdam Convention

Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, Rotterdam, 1998. Last meeting 10 May 2013 (Geneva). Also referred to as PCI (Prior Informed Consent).

The Rotterdam Convention seeks to encourage the sharing of information between exporters and importers with regards the labelling, classification, specific handling instructions, and any existing restrictions and bans, of hazardous chemicals.

Signatory nations are entitled to ban the importation of listed chemicals, and exporting countries have an obligation to ensure producers are compliant to the treaty's regulations.

In 2011, Canada unilaterally and controversially blocked the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the list of chemicals subject to Rotterdam restrictions, but finally bowed to pressure and withdrew its opposition in 2012.

Download: Rotterdam Convention full text - English (pdf 630 kB)

Izmir Protocol

Protocol on the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Izmir Protocol), 1 October 1996.

This protocol was adopted by the parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution, (Barcelona Convention). The protocol prohibits the export of hazardous and radioactive wastes to non-OECD countries, and those Parties that are not members of the European Community are prohibited from importing hazardous and radioactive wastes.

Lomé IV Convention

Lomé IV Convention relating to the international movement of hazardous wastes and radioactive wastes. A trade and aid agreement between the European Economic Community (EEC) and 71 African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries. It was first signed in February 1975 in Lomé, Togo.

Basel Action Network

The international Basel Action Network (BAN), based in Seattle, is an activist forum for reporting on the success and failure of implementing the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

"The Basel Action Network (BAN) is the world's only organization focused on confronting the global environmental injustice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade. Known for its investigations on 'digital dumps' of e-waste in China, they work to prevent unsustainable dumping of the world's toxic waste on our global village's poorest residents, while at the same time actively promoting sustainable solutions to the waste crisis."

BAN website and forum