As part of its cover story about Waste trade, in the March-April 2016 issue, Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia magazine conducted this interview with Rolph Payet, executive secretary of the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal.

What types of transboundary moved wastes are controlled by Basel Convention?

The Basel Convention control procedure would apply to transboundary movements of wastes as defined in Articles 1 and 2. The scope of the Basel Convention covers “hazardous wastes” (defined in Articles 1 and 2) and “other wastes” as listed in Annex II to the Convention. Annex II includes wastes collected from households and residues arising from the incineration of household wastes (Codes Y46 and Y47 respectively). Wastes are defined in Article 2 as substances or objects which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law.

Classification of wastes is the prerogative of the States concerned by the transboundary movement. As such, specific information on movements and/or applicable national legislation, measures or other conditions should be sought from the relevant competent authorities.

Technical Guidelines on wastes collected from households have been developed under the Basel Convention. At its last meeting in May 2015, the governing body of the Convention, the Conference of the Parties, in recognition of the challenges faced by Parties with regard to the handling and disposal of household waste, adopted decision BC-12/13 on creating innovative solutions through the Basel Convention for the environmentally sound management of household wastes.

What is the responsibility of the State of export, especially in case waste could not reach its destination or could not be delivered, for any reason?

The conditions, procedures and special rules for transboundary movements in accordance with the provisions of the Convention are set out specifically in Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention. The Convention also provides for consequences in case the movement cannot be completed as initially planned.

When a transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other wastes to which consent of States concerned has been given cannot be completed in accordance with the terms of the contract, the State of export shall ensure that the wastes in question are taken back into that State by the exporter, if alternative arrangements cannot be made for their disposal in an environmentally sound manner, within 90 days from the time that the importing State informed the State of export and the Secretariat or such other period of time as the States concerned agree (Article 8).

What cases of transboundary movements are deemed illegal traffic and what steps are taken by Basel Covention in such cases?

There is provision within the Basel Convention relating to illegal traffic of wastes, which is defined and set out in Article 9. Transboundary movements:
a) without notification pursuant to the provisions of the Convention to all States concerned; or
b) without consent pursuant to the provisions of the Convention to a State concerned; or
c) with consent obtained from States concerned through falsification, misrepresentation or fraud; or
d) that does not confirm in a material way with the documents; or that results in deliberated disposal (e.g. dumping) of hazardous wastes or other wastes in contravention of the Convention and of general principles of international law;
shall be deemed illegal traffic. Article 9 sets out the steps to be undertaken, dependent on whether the illegal traffic is deemed to be the result of conduct on the part of the exporter or generator; the importer or disposer; or cases where the responsibility for the illegal traffic cannot be assigned to the exporter or generator or to the importer or disposer. For instance, in cases where the transboundary movement of wastes is deemed to be illegal traffic as the result of conduct on the part of the exporter or generator that the State of export has the responsibility to ensure that the wastes in questions are 1) taken back by the exporter or generator, or if necessary by itself in the State of export, or, if impracticable 2) otherwise disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.

Are there additional requirements to protect human health and the environment?

Pursuant to paragraph 11 of Article 4, “Nothing in this Convention shall prevent a Party from imposing additional requirements that are consistent with the provisions of this Convention, and are in accordance with the rules of international law, in order to better protect human health and the environment.” Some information on the restrictions on import and export transmitted by Parties are available on the Basel Convention website however the Secretariat would highly recommend contacting the relevant competent authorities of the States concerned for any additional requirements that may have been implemented.

What is the role of the Basel Convention Secretariat in waste transboundary traffic activities?

The Secretariat regularly provides information to Parties and other stakeholders as provided for within the scope of its mandate. The functions of the Secretariat are set out in Article 16 to the Convention, as well as within relevant decisions of the Basel Convention Conference of the Parties. These functions include, amongst others:
· To communicate with focal points and competent authorities established by the Parties in accordance with Article 5 of the Convention;
· To receive and convey information from and to Parties on: sources of technical assistance and training; available technical and scientific know-how; sources of advice and expertise; and availability of resources with a view to assisting Parties upon request in various areas (Article 16(1)(g));
· To provide Parties upon request with information on consultants or consulting firms with the necessary technical competence in the field which can assist them to examine a notification for a transboundary movement, the concurrence of a shipment of hazardous wastes or other wastes; and/or the fact that the proposed disposal facilities for
· To assist Parties on request in their identification of cases of illegal traffic and to circulate immediately to the Parties concerned any information it has received regarding illegal traffic.

In addition, the Secretariat is mandated “To provide parties, upon request, with information on matters pertaining to the implementation and enforcement of the Convention, including on the development and updating of national legislation or other measures, such as measures to protect themselves from unwanted imports of wastes, and assistance in the identification of cases of illegal traffic“ (Decision BC-12/8).

As you may note, the Secretariat is dependent on a request by a Party in order to be able to assist as may be needed. Communications with Parties take place through the officially designated channels of communications, namely the focal point.