New discussion paper on practical experiences with the Basel Convention published by PREVENT and StEP

27. April 2022

New discussion paper on practical experiences with the Basel Convention published by PREVENT and StEP

Today we are happy to publish a new discussion paper developed by the PREVENT-StEP joint Working Group called Practical Experiences with the Basel Convention: Challenges, Good Practice and Ways to Improve Transboundary Movements of E-Waste in Low and Middle Income countries. Over the last year, the working group has collected experiences from low and middle income countries on exporting e-waste or fractions thereof to environmentally sound recycling facilities abroad according to the Basel Convention. This paper aims to provide a constructive input to the discussion around the continued implementation of the Basel Convention and its processes worldwide.

The Basel Convention aims to control and reduce transboundary shipments of hazardous and other wastes worldwide, with a particular focus on stopping dumping of such wastes to low and middle income countries. To do this, a control procedure was established, known as Prior Informed Consent (PIC), in which the authorities of the importing country must be informed by the exporting country before an approval for a transboundary movement of notifiable wastes is given. All transit countries on the route must also give their consent. This has supported reduction of dumping of such hazardous and other wastes. However, an often overlooked aspect is the flow of e-waste materials in the opposite direction for recycling and treatment in environmentally sound management facilities abroad. Such shipments of hazardous e-waste are subject to the same procedures, and therefore dependent on how well the PIC procedures are implemented. Many low and middle income countries are not able to manage all hazardous e-waste fractions arising from local recycling and dismantling processes and must therefore export these to appropriate recycling facilities in other countries. Until local and regional facilities for e-waste management are established, such exports remain necessary to ensure environmentally sound management of e-waste.

The national implementation and associated processes relating to transboundary movements can vary between countries, leading to challenges in complying with the provisions of the Basel Convention in practice for exporters. This paper sheds light on what happens in practice and the challenges around such exports. Depending on the state of implementation in various countries, the following high-level challenges were identified:

  • Lack of practical experience or awareness in conducting transboundary movements in competent authorities, exporters and customs
  • Differing definitions, tariff codes, administrative processes and documentation needs between countries
  • Large administrative process time and costs for exporters, with lengthy response times that may lead to notifications taking from several months to even years, sometimes resulting in aborted efforts in applying for notifications
  • Slow approval or no response by transit nations, as well as problems arising from re-routing of ships and outright bans on transit by several countries
  • Lack of awareness, harmonised HS Codes and enforcement in customs can lead to penalties for compliant Basel shipments, while undeclared hazardous waste shipments pass unnoticed illegally.
  • Large volumes of capital are immobilised by financial guarantees.

These challenges are explained in detail in the discussion paper, as well as case studies from Nigeria, South Africa, Island nations in the EU and Latin America.

After identifying the challenges, the working group also came up with ideas for improving processes including:

  • Harmonise codes, approval processes and accountability within competent authorities
  • Set up a digital platform for notifications procedures with fixed time frames and built-in explanatory elements
  • Streamlined and harmonised processes for PIC procedures for deliveries of wastes to qualified/certified recyclers, with an example of a fast-track notification process (as trialled in the EU).
  • An automatic tacit consent if the transit countries do not respond or an automatic tacit consent if wastes do not formally enter the country, which often is the case with container hubs in deep seaports
  • Support the establishment of local or regional treatment facilities to reduce need to export, with an example of the regional dynamics in Latin America
  • Improve the understanding of the Basel Convention and its provisions amongst authorities and exporting companies through process-linked capacity building approaches

In a next step, the working group aims to share these ideas with parties of the Basel Convention and discuss how solutions can be piloted together with private sector actors at the Basel Convention COP in mid-June 2022. A side event has been submitted with the World Economic Forum, Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation and Circular Electronics Partnership who are also eager to pilot solutions in this space with Parties to the Basel Convention. The working group is made up of 30 members representing various international organisations, logistics and recycling operations worldwide.