Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste

13 May 2019

The WCO contributes to the combating of environmental crime, in particular, illegal wildlife trade, illegal trade in hazardous and other waste, ozone depleting substances (ODSs) and illegal trade in timber through various activities falling under its Environment Programme.

As such, WCO participated in meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (CoPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions held in Geneva, Switzerland over the period from 29 April to 10 May 2019.  The theme for the meetings was “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste".

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are multilateral environmental agreements, which share the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.

During the meetings, the WCO delivered a presentation on the recent and successful Operation DEMETER IV to combat illegal transboundary waste and on the plans to conduct a follow-up global, Customs-led enforcement operation, to which all WCO Members will be invited to participate.

The WCO, the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) and other law enforcement agencies and interested parties will consider a joint plan of action for the future.  Depending on the availability of funding, part of this plan will involve Customs officers in selected countries being trained on the technical identification of different types of waste and the procedures to be followed when waste is identified.

Member administrations are encouraged to pay particular attention to illegal shipments of waste, and specifically plastic waste.  The WCO plans to develop a questionnaire on the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, to be circulated for Members’ consideration in due course.

One of the main areas of concern that received attention during the Basel Convention discussion was the growing problem of plastic waste.  The scourge of plastic waste, and especially marine plastic litter, is present on a global scale and is on the increase.  Continuous transboundary movements of plastic waste and micro plastics present a threat, due to the durability of plastic particles which remain in the environment for long periods of time.

During the CoP meetings, emphasis was placed on the key role to be played by Customs in terms of enforcing Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedures for waste shipments and preventing waste being shipped illegally.

A representative of the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions pointed out that the topic of illegal trafficking continues to attract interest and that there are a number of opportunities for collaboration.

More Information

Back in 2012, the Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme - part of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat, merged from three separate Secretariats with a programmatic structure to form a single Secretariat with a matrix structure serving the three Conventions.

The threefold CoP meetings comprised the fourteenth meeting of the CoP to the Basel Convention, the ninth meeting of the CoP to the Rotterdam Convention and the ninth meeting of the CoP to the Stockholm Convention, which were held back to back. The meetings included joint sessions covering matters of relevance to at least two Conventions, as well as separate sessions for each of the three COPs.

According to the Basel Convention, areas of cooperation between the Secretariat and WCO are, among others:

  • -   “The identification of Harmonized System Codes (HS codes) for several wastes streams covered by the Basel Convention and for chemicals or groups of chemicals listed in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention or listed in the annexes to the Stockholm Convention through the WCO Harmonized System Committee (HSC) and other related committees. More on the work related to the Basel Convention.
  • -   Activities aiming at preventing and combating the illegal traffic in hazardous chemicals and wastes under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, e.g. through the Green Customs Initiative and other existing enforcement networks.
  • -   WCO is an observer in the Environmental Network for Optimizing Regulatory Compliance on Illegal Traffic (ENFORCE) established by the Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention at its eleventh meeting. The mission of ENFORCE is through a network of relevant experts, to promote parties’ compliance with the provisions of the Basel Convention pertaining to preventing and combating illegal traffic in hazardous wastes and other wastes through the better implementation and enforcement of national law.”