WCO releases research paper on waste control at borders by Customs

04 diciembre 2020

The global environment surrounding waste control at borders is evolving. Heightened import restrictions on waste by several countries in the last couple of years have impacted the way the world tackles waste. In addition, the new international rules based on the amendment of the Basel Convention will expand the Convention’s regulatory scope to cover plastic waste from January 2021 onwards. These changes assign greater importance to the role of Customs and strategies within Customs, as the major frontline organization at the border embedded in this globally evolving situation.

Customs’ role in combating illegal trade in hazardous waste contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The most recent international joint operation in this connection, WCO Operation DEMETER VI conducted in October 2020, demonstrated once again the importance of cooperation among Customs and with partner organizations.

This research paper considers the issue of waste control at borders from a Customs perspective.

The first section of the paper gives a general background on the current situation as regards the waste trade. It explains recent developments in this area and describes the global and regional legal framework. It also explains Customs’ role and contribution to waste control at borders, driven by the WCO Environment Programme.

The second section analyses the current situation by looking at the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) data as well as data reported to the Basel Convention. The data was analysed and sorted by exporting/importing region and types of waste, which pointed to the highly technical nature of waste control at borders.   

The third section offers observations on the current situation and provides insights for Customs. After mentioning improvements in the trade/enforcement environment, the paper highlights the need to increase resources within Customs and to enhance risk management-based control by Customs.