Customs successfully target environmentally sensitive goods during Operation DEMETER V

10 December 2019

Operation DEMETER V, which was conducted from 1 to 30 September 2019, saw Customs administrations’ efforts turned to monitoring and controlling cross-border movements of environmentally sensitive commodities, and ensuring compliance with trade-related provisions stipulated by Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the Basel Convention and the Montreal Protocol.

The results of Operation DEMETER V were recently confirmed at a closeout-event held in Shenzhen, China, and hosted by China Customs. Operation DEMETER V focused on illegal shipments of hazardous waste, with particular emphasis on plastic waste, as well as ozone depleting substances (ODS). Controlled under the Basel Convention and Montreal Protocol respectively, all means of transport and modalities of Customs control were in scope.

The 83 participating Members each appointed a National Contact Point (NCP), who cooperated closely with the Operational Coordination Unit (OCU), established at the RILO Asia Pacific. In addition, six regional and international organizations participated in this 30-day WCO global enforcement operation.

Within the legislative framework of each participating country, the objective of Operation DEMETER V also included the enhancement of  information exchange among Customs, and between Customs and competent authorities across the globe, to prevent and intercept illegal cross-border movements of waste and ODS. 

In total, 232 seizures were reported through formatted messages of the CENcomm. 201 waste related seizure cases were reported, amounting to 4,584 tons, which constitutes 59,983 pieces.  Waste of electric and electronic equipment (a.k.a. e-waste), plastic waste, metal scraps, waste vehicle parts and municipal waste dominated in terms of both number of cases and quantity.  Comparing to Operation DEMETER IV, metal-based slag and waste rubber decreased significantly in the number of cases and quantity.  The number of seizure cases of e-waste waste tripled and although plastic waste increased by two-fold in terms of the number of cases, the total quantity dropped to one seventh of the amount recorded in 2018. However, plastic waste still constituted 23% of total commodities seized.

With regards to ODS seizures, 8,031 kg contained in 81 pieces of refrigerant were seized.

Various illegal methods were detected in an attempt to circumvent Customs controls. These included mainly misdeclarations and misdescriptions, as well as abuse of licenses.

Commonly used cover-loads for waste shipments are reflected below:

Illegal Waste

Declared goods

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

Computer parts


Office supplies



Rechargeable battery

Telecom equipment

Used printer


Plastic Waste


Plastic material


Reusable plastics

Recycled plastic particles

Waste paper

Kraft paper


Used battery


Operation DEMETER was first launched in 2009. 64 Customs administrations participated then in targeting the illicit cross-border shipment of hazardous and other waste en-route from Europe to countries in the Asia/Pacific region and Africa. Thereafter, Operations DEMETER II and III followed in 2012 and 2013, and Operation DEMETER IV, initiated by China Customs administration and supported by the WCO, was conducted in 2018.

It is foreseen that Operation DEMETER VI will be conducted in 2020, and all WCO Members will be invited to contribute to the global effort in ensuring compliance with the Basel Convention and Montreal Protocol in the context of ensuring environmental sustainability.