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Hazardous Wastes

Implementing the Basel Convention

Overall, industrialized countries generate more waste than they wish to dispose of within their own boundaries. To prevent an international trade in wastes that would force developing countries to choose between poverty and poisons, the Basel Convention to control trade in hazardous wastes and their disposal was agreed in 1989. But as industries producing hazardous wastes spread, and regulations controlling waste disposal are tightened, the problems with hazardous wastes have spread and taken on new forms. Transboundary movements and dumping have increased in South Asia (UNEP, 1996), in Eastern and Central Europe, and in the CIS (Gourlay, 1995). In 1992, Poland intercepted 1,332 improper waste shipments from Western Europe alone, and such cases soared by 35% in the first half of 1993, which should give an idea of scale of the problem in less developed countries (Coll, 1994). There are about 100,000 tons of obsolete and unused pesticides in developing countries, with 20,000 tons in Africa alone that will cost $80 million to clean up (FAO, 1998). The threats to health, water supplies and the environment from these and other dumped toxic chemicals are serious. The Basel Convention was strengthened in 1995 to ban exports to non-OECD countries, but it will take time, resources and strong governmental commitment to achieve effective implementation.


Coll, Steve. 1994. "Global Economy Faces the Global Dump". International Herald Tribune, 24 March 1994.

Gourlay, Ken.1995. "A world of waste". People & the Planet, vol 4, number 1, 1995. p. 6.

FAO, Press release, 2 March 1998. http://www.fao.org/docrep/v8419e/v8419e01.htm

UNEP. 1996. Sub-regional Consultation on the Preparation of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook (GEO 1) Report, Kathmandu, July 1996.


Emerging Issues


UNEP/DEWA/Earthwatch 1996-2003