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Basel Convention: Waste Shipment Update

Peter Sellar



Why the update? 

On 5 December 2019, the so-called “Ban Amendment” to the Basel Convention at last entered into force.  

What is the Basel Convention 

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal entered into force in 1992. Its principal aim is to seek to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects from the generation management, movement and disposal of hazardous and other wastes. 

Who signed up to it? 

The Convention was negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme. There are 187 Parties to the Convention including all Member States of the EU and the EU itself. 

What does it actually do? 

The core of the legal provisions is found in Article e4 which bans the cross-border movement of wastes (i) if a Party has exercised its right to prohibit the import of hazardous and other wastes; (ii) if a group of States, belonging to an economic and/or political organisation has prohibited the import of hazardous wastes by national legislation (iii) if there is “reason to believe that the wastes in question will not be managed in an environmentally sound manner”; and (iv) between Parties sand non-Parties to the Convention.

What is so important about the "Ban Amendment"? 

The amendment bans the countries listed in a new Annex VII (principally OECD countries and EU Member States) from making any transboundary movements of hazardous waste to countries not included in (new) Annex VII but covered by the Convention where that waste is intended for final disposal, or (with some exceptions destined for reuse, recycling or recovery operations.

Any transboundary movement of waste undertaken in contravention of the Basel Convention and other principles of international law and with the prior informed consent procedure is considered illegal, which is a criminal act under the Convention.

Anything else? 


As of last year, the concept of “hazardous waste” now covers certain types of plastic The Ban Amendment applies as much as it does to that plastic waste as it does to any other. 


The belated entry into force of the Ban Amendment acts as a regulatory and political marker in the Greta-Thunberg-David-Attenborough-Ellen-MacArthur environmental world we all now live in. Given the EU's export of 40 million tonnes of waste to non-EU countries in 2016 - amounting to almost 20% of the global export of waste – and the uncounted amount of illegal waste shipments, at last developing countries have the regulatory and legal tools to resist being the world's dumping ground.  

For more information, please contact Peter Sellar or Selma Abdel-Qader.

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