The Basel Convention Essay

The Basel Convention Essay

This paper describes the Basel convention, reveals its historical background, along with its description, ecological issues and pre-conventional efforts on regard of the waste disposal, makes an emphasis upon negotiation history and convention itself, as well as provides the scope of its effectiveness.

1. Introduction
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal or simply Basel Convention is said to be the international treaty which was made up aiming to decrease the hazardous waste movements between the nations, and especially to prevent hazardous waste transfer from developed to less developed countries (hereinafter referred to as LCDs). By the way, what is essential to remember is that it does not address the radioactive waste movement. The aim of the Convention is to minimize the toxicity and amount of generated wastes in order to ensure their environmentally sound management the closer the possible to their generation source, as well as to help LDCs in environmentally sound management in the wastes they generate. The Convention was first presented and opened for signature on March, 22 1989 and was signed and entered into force on May, 5 1992. On the Basel Secretariat web-page it is possible to find the list of parties to the Convention, as well as their ratification status. There are 170 parties to the Convention, however Haiti, Afghanistan and the United States of America have signed it, but not yet ratified it.

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2. Historical Background
Due to the stiffening of such environmental laws, such as, for instance, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, in developed counties in the 1970s, cost of disposal of hazardous wastes increased significantly. At the same period of time, shipping globalization made the waste transboundary movement more available and LDCs were in despair for foreign currency. Subsequently, the hazardous waste trade grew very rapidly and specially to LDCs.

On the major events that lead to the Basel Convention creation was the Khian Sea waste disposal incident. It occurred in August, 31 1986, when the cargo ship Khian Sea, which was registered in Liberia, loaded about fourteen thousands tons of toxic incinerator ash in Philadelphia. The ash was intended to be dumped into the island in the Bahamas, but the government of the island turned the load away. For about sixteen months the Khian Sea was looking all over the Atlantic for the place to get rid of the cargo. There was no return to Philadelphia and a series of countries refused to store the wastes. About four thousands tons were finally dumped in 1988 near Haiti and marked as the “topsoil fertilizer”, however, the ash was too poisonous to be used in such a way. Soon after that, Greenpeace warned the government of the Haiti about the true waste nature and the decision was made to load the ash back on the ship, but it foreseeingly shipped away already. Later it was buries in the bunker island and all waste imports were banned. The crew in despair upon the issue where to dump the toxic wastes decided to dump the rest of the cargo into the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

The other contributing case took place in 1988 and is called the Koko case, when five ships were transporting about eight thousands barrels of hazardous waste from Italy to Koko, Nigeria for one hundred dollars of monthly rent for the use of the farmland. Such incidents are often called “Toxic Colonialism”.

On November, 27-December, 1 2006 the parties of the Basel Agreement also decided to focus their attention upon the electronic wastes and ships dismantling. Electronic wastes are the common term for “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment”, which is said to be the waste type that consists of any broken electronic or electrical device. These are e-wastes that cannot be reused. E-wastes are the great concern for the parties of the Basel convention, as the most parts of the equipment are said to be toxic and are not biodegradable.

Maureen Walsh in “The global trade in hazardous wastes: domestic and international attempts to cope with the growing crisis in waste management” (42 Cath. U. Law Review 103, 1992) wrote that there are about 4% of hazardous wastes from Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries that are shipped in international borders. Such wastes include radioactive waste, chemical waste, asbestos, municipal solid waste, old tires, incinerator ash, etc. From all the waste that is shipped from developed countries, the half is shipped for recovery and the other half for final disposal. The computers, due to their drastic development and increase in number for the last decade, became the great problem and can no longer be distinguished as commodity, but the waste.

3. The Basel Convention
In order to explain the Basel Convention in the fullest extent, it is important to understand what hazardous wastes are and what elements and substances fall under this definition. In general terms, hazardous wastes are those which are toxic, corrosive, flammable and explosive. Hazardous wastes can also fall under the scope of the Convention due to their definition as being hazardous under the laws of the exporting, importing or the country of transit. Among key hazardous wastes can be named: arsenic (utilized as an alloy in lead shot and electrical circuits), asbestos (used in construction for insulation, and also in roofing, brakes, gaskets, etc.), cadmium (used in metal coatings, pigments, plastics, batteries, etc.), chromium (is combines with other metals to form the alloy; can be also used as the pigment in paint, wood preservatives, liquids for tanning hides, etc.), clinical wastes, cyanide (compressed hydrogen cyanide gas can be used to exterminate rodents, insects, etc.), lead (utilized in the production of paints, batteries, metal products, etc.), mercury (used for the production of the thermometers, dental fillings, batteries, chlorine gas, etc.), string acids and alkalis (are highly corrosive liquids that are utilized in the industry and are able to corrode metals and destroy tissues of the living organisms), PCRs (are said to be compounds that are utilized in the industry as the heat exchange fluids, and also in electric capacitors and transformers; can be also used as additives in carbonless copy paper, plastics, sealants and paint) and POPs (persistent organic pollutants that can persist for many years in the environment, bio-accumulate and therefore can be seen as the threat to humans and animals, and also can cause the series of health effects).

Basel Convention is looking forward protection of the human health and the environment from the dangers form hazardous wastes. Such aim demand the change of the economic equation for wastes for the motivation of the hazardous wastes producers and just people who benefit from such goods to make active actions. In order to accomplish this task, the Convention sets out the three-step strategy for wastes generation minimization and the reduction of hazardous wastes international movement.

The first step of the strategy implies the reduction of the hazardous wastes generation, as the less waste to handle, the less work, money and risk are involved. There are specific cleaner production process that allows manufacturers to lower their costs and reducing damages to the environment, which is a very good combination. Successful industries are supposed to include them and consequently become better in minimizing the amount of unwanted by-products and producing goods with the fewer amounts of hazardous components. They are supposed to become adept at recycling leftover materials back to the cycle of the manufacturing.

Basel Convention efforts are concentrated upon pushing of the responsibility for treating of the wasted further up the supply chain are launched to promoting the hazardous wastes environmentally sound management (ESM), which includes taking of all practical steps for the protection of the human health and the environment. On practice it implies the strict control of the storage, transport, reuse, treatment, recovery, recycle and final disposal of the wastes that occur. ESM strategy provides incentives for the companies to control and monitor of every step in the production processes and therefore obtaining the more real understanding of the real costs for the hazardous wastes generation. Consumers also play the great role in the Convention, as one of the most important issues of ESM is the attempts to lower the demand for services and products that result in hazardous by-products. Consumers have to care about self-education regarding the methods that are used in the production processes and to consider what to buy and what not upon the day-to-day basis. In such a manner, every person that is the consumer of the manufactured goods have to consider himself or herself as the undividable part of the problem with hazardous wastes and subsequently the important part on the way to its solution.

The next step of the strategy is concerned with the treatment and disposal of the hazardous wastes the closer the possible to the location of their generation. Taking into consideration the huge amounts of the production technologies, it becomes obvious that it is impossible to avoid the generation of the hazardous wastes completely. Therefore, they should be disposed locally and such option has two major benefits, as it primarily diminished risk of waste spillage during transportation and then it ensures that the expenses of the hazardous wastes disposal are borne by the wastes generators. In such a way, factory workers and managers become more motivated to find innovative and safe solutions for their technologies. It is obvious, however, that local solutions can be possible just in case the necessary legislation is in place and the infrastructure is developed. It is important that waste-management facilities be of the high technological standards and site operators are well-trained and highly qualified. The system of the monitoring has to be enough complicated to be able to detect ay leaks that are above the acceptable standards. Emergency procedures should also be developed to handle the events of spills and other accidents. There should also be foreseen safe storage facilities for residues from waste recovery. The series of Technical Guidelines were developed by the Parties to the Convention in order to ensure that these all technical requirements are in the place. Technical Guidelines contain information regarding ESM of waste oils, organic solvents, persistent organic pollutants, pneumatic tires household wastes, clinical wastes, and other types of hazardous wastes. They also contain information on regard of the disposal methods that are relevant to the range of wastes (specially engineered landfills, physico-chemical and biological treatments, and high temperature incineration). All together, Technical Guidelines provide the governments with the information and tools that are necessary to ensure ESM of hazardous wastes.

And the last third strategy is connected with the minimization of the hazardous wastes international movements. So, Basel Convention is looking for possible ways to minimize the wastes movement across the international borders due to the agreed regime of procedures and rules. This strategy starts with the identification of what wastes are to be considered hazardous and therefore are the subject for the transboundary movement procedures. There are 27 specific categories of waste and 18 waste streams currently identified by the Convention. They are all classified to the List A and List B. List A wastes exhibit one or more hazardous characteristic, and what is important is that radioactive wastes and wastes from normal ship operations are excluded from the list as other international agreements cover these items. List B contains the description of wastes that are considered to be non-hazardous. However, it is not very easy to draw up as it can be possibly considered, as national definitions of the wastes vary from country to country, and some chemicals can be hazardous under certain circumstances, and others can be the mix of the different substances and can include just the small amount of toxic chemicals.

4. Effectiveness of the Basel Convention
Speaking about the effectiveness of the Convention, it is essential to mention that it made the legal cross-border hazardous wastes movements completely transparent for all parties and all movements are now more environmentally safe and economically efficient. But still particular sophisticated wastes had to be treated with the implementation of the definite sophisticated technologies that are very expensive and not all countries can afford them.

5. Conclusion
After the years of successful operations, Basel Convention continues to take care and solve problems with the hazardous wastes, and each country has such a problem. Basel Convention promotes global solutions for solving hazardous waste problems through the exchange with technologies and ideas. The publications with the ESM description are distributed and Technical Guidelines developed. The implementation of the Convention is also ensured by the working network of fourteen Regional Centers for Training and Technology Transfer. These Centers provide hands-on and practical support services upon technological, technical and enforcement issues.

Governments are also able to address to the Convention Secretariat, which works with national authorities upon the development of the national legislation, assists in setting up of the hazardous wastes inventories and preparation of the of the hazardous waste movement policy tools and plans, cares about strengthening national institutions, etc.

The main goal of the Basel Convention and its activities remain the attempt to make the ESM of hazardous and other wastes a reality. There is a lot to be done in the future, and much was done through the years of its activities. Still the development and transfer of the cleaner processes and technologies should be accelerated, as without such technologies the outcomes of the generation of the hazardous technologies during the next twenty years can be very dramatic.

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