Brussels, 20 January 2014
A joint global Customs initiative across Europe and the Asia Pacific region netted more than 7,000 metric tons of illegal waste, including hazardous waste, used vehicle parts and tyres, textiles, and e-waste.
The initiative, known as Operation Demeter III, targeted mainly illicit maritime consignments of hazardous and other waste transported from Europe and other waste producing regions to the Asia Pacific region, which is increasingly becoming a dumping ground for this sort of unwanted waste.
Initiated by China Customs and organized by the World Customs Organization (WCO), Demeter III was carried out with the support of the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEPs) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
During the five-week Operation, that took place in October and November 2013, Customs officers representing 44 countries used risk assessment, profiling and targeting techniques, together with available intelligence, to identify and control high-risk consignments.
Almost all of the 48 interceptions took place in European countries, such as Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal, before the waste could be illegally shipped, although the largest seizure, namely 5,700 metric tons of textile waste, was realized in China.
Demeter III is the third operation aimed at fighting the illegal trafficking in hazardous waste, and its results are a testament to Customs officials on the ground who continue to demonstrate leadership in their efforts to combat environmental crime and ensure the health of global citizens.
Its launch follows growing concern that cross-border movement of hazardous waste is often being carried out in contravention of existing international instruments and national legislation to the detriment of the environment and the public health of all nations, particularly developing countries.
Under the Basel Convention which regulates the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal, Parties have the right to prohibit the import of waste, and are also prohibited from exporting waste without the pre-consent of importing countries.
Where shipments of hazardous waste occur without the pre-consent of importing countries, it is regarded as illegal trafficking, and exporting countries are obligated to take back the waste or dispose of it properly in accordance with the terms of the Basel Convention.
"Operations such as Demeter III are of critical importance in raising awareness, preventing the trafficking of waste, and enhancing mutual understanding and cooperation between Customs authorities, environmental agencies and competent law enforcement authorities," said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.
Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, said, "Protecting human health and the environment from the negative impacts associated with the illegal traffic of hazardous and other waste cannot be achieved without the commitment and active involvement of the Customs community."
The WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) for the Asia/Pacific region – based in Seoul, Korea – hosted the Operation Coordination Unit (OCU) and played an important role during the Operation as a focal point for information exchange.
Participants relied on CENcomm, the WCO’s secure and encrypted communication tool, to exchange crucial intelligence and information and to coordinate their operational activities during the course of this global enforcement initiative.
Investigations linked to Operation Demeter III are ongoing.