Further Resources

Illegal traffic under the Basel Convention

Illegal traffic under the Basel Convention

Illegal traffic under the Basel Convention

National reports submitted in the framework of the Basel Convention suggest that nearly 180 million tonnes of hazardous and household wastes are generated annually around the world. According to the same reports, at least 9.3 million tonnes of these wastes move from country to country each year, and this waste is presumably received as a welcome source of business. This leaves some 170 millions tonnes of hazardous and household wastes that are assumed to be disposed of nationally in an environmentally sound manner. But is this the case?

Many countries complain that they are receiving shipments which they never agreed to or that they are unable to properly dispose of. From Brazil to Singapore, from Belgium to Ghana, or from Canada to Russia, it would be challenging to find a single country that has never suffered a case of illegal traffic of waste.

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Preventing, detecting and acting against the illegal transboundary movements of hazardous and other wastes (“illegal traffic”) is a crucial element in the global waste challenge.

The Basel Convention is one of the very few environmental treaties to define a prohibited activity as “criminal”. The fact that illegal traffic is deemed a crime that Parties undertake to prevent and punish says a lot about the international community’s commitment to the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes. Illegal traffic of hazardous waste is unfortunately still very common in all corners of the world.

Under the Basel Convention, illegal traffic is defined as a transboundary movement of hazardous wastes:

  • without notification pursuant to the provisions of the Convention to all States concerned;
  • without the consent of a State concerned;
  • through consent obtained by falsification, misrepresentation or fraud;
  • that does not conform in a material way with the documents; or
  • that results in deliberate disposal (eg. dumping) of hazardous wastes in contravention of the Convention and of general principles of international law.

Common methods of illegal traffic include making false declarations, the concealment, mixture or double layering of the materials in a shipment and the mislabelling of individual containers. Such methods seek to misrepresent the actual contents of a said shipment and, because of this, the meticulous and thorough scrutiny of national enforcement officers is required to detect cases of illegal traffic.

The Secretariat undertakes technical assistance activities as mandated by the Conference of the Parties. Such activities may be directed at any stakeholder involved in the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other wastes. for instance Competent Authorities, Customs, police, prosecutors and judges.