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Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Environment and Conservation
Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes
  

Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes

Basel Convention On the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal

The "Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal" controls the international trade in hazardous wastes. The Convention, which was adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992, was negotiated to establish a "notice and consent" regime for the export of hazardous waste to importing countries. Under the Convention's provisions, trade in hazardous wastes generally cannot take place:

  • without the importing country's written consent to a particular export; or
  • where the exporting country has reason to believe that the particular wastes will not be handled in an environmentally sound manner.

Currently, there are more than 160 Parties to the Convention. The United States signed the Basel Convention in 1990. The U.S. Senate provided its advice and consent to ratification in 1992. However, before the United States can ratify the Convention, there is a need for additional legislation to provide the necessary statutory authority to implement its requirements. Until that time, as a non-Party to the Convention, the U.S. participates in the meetings of the Convention Parties, but is not allowed to vote.

The Parties adopted an amendment to the Convention in 1995 to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes, for both recycling and disposal, from countries listed in a new Annex VII to countries not listed in the Annex. This amendment is not yet in force for any Party. The amendment has not been submitted to the Senate for advice and consent, and no Administration has supported it.

Currently debated issues include ship scrapping; classification of, and control systems for, used and scrap electronics; and materials for repair/refurbishment/remanufacturing.

  • In terms of ship scrapping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is currently negotiating a legally binding instrument for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships. The U.S. has urged Basel Parties to coordinate internally between maritime and environmental components of government, and participate actively in IMO negotiations to achieve environmentally sound management of ship recycling.
  • In terms of classifying used and scrap electronics, the current Basel system for controlling international shipments of hazardous waste makes trade in many of these materials difficult, and in some cases impossible. The U.S. supports consideration of alternative systems of control for "e-waste" under the Convention.
  • Some Basel Parties are beginning to argue that the Convention applies, in its current form, to the international movement of used products for repair, refurbishment, or remanufacture. The U.S. position is that international movement of equipment for repair, refurbishment, or remanufacturing does not constitute movement of waste, and thus is not impacted by the Convention or its procedures.

  
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