Operation DEMETER VII clamps down on illegal transboundary shipments of waste and ozone depleting substances

26 November 2021

Conducted from 1 to 31 October 2021, Operation DEMETER VII demonstrated Customs’ commitment to helping to protect the health of both people and the planet, by enforcing Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) which regulate cross-border movements of environmentally sensitive commodities. Strategically placed at borders, Customs is the primary line of defence against illicit cross-border trafficking, and is mandated to monitor and control commodities.

Operation Demeter VII tackled the illicit trafficking of waste, ozone depleting substances (ODS) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are very potent greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change. These commodities are regulated under, respectively, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention), and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol).

“By controlling the compliance of goods that cross borders, Customs is a crucial actor in the fight against climate change and environmental impoverishment”, said the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “The success of Operation DEMETER VII once again demonstrates the importance of joint actions to stop and prevent illicit trade in waste and substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol, and the WCO is committed to continuing to work closely with its partners in these endeavours”, he added.

With 87 Customs administrations participating – the largest DEMETER Operation yet –  Operation DEMETER VII achieved great success in its objective of thwarting illicit trafficking. The lead actors in this Operation were the WCO Secretariat, the Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILO) for Asia/Pacific and Western Europe, and China Customs.

The Operational Coordination Unit was set up at the Asia/Pacific RILO based in Seoul, Korea. In addition, the Operation was supported by the Basel Convention, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the WCO-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Container Control Programme, INTERPOL, Europol, the EU Network for Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), and the WCO RILO network.

Using risk indicators and focusing on pre-identified routings and hotspots, Customs officers controlled suspicious shipments and seized illegal waste and ODS. The Operation resulted in a total of 107 seizures, including:

  • 3,851 tons of waste and additional 6,108 pieces
  • 101 kg and additional 493 pieces of substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol.

The DEMETER Operations, with the first edition dating back to 2009, have become synonymous with global Customs enforcement efforts aimed at intercepting and disrupting illegal shipments of hazardous waste, especially plastic waste, as well as substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol, namely ODS and HFCs.

Under the Kigali Amendment, Parties to the Montreal Protocol are now required to gradually phase down HFC production and use.

The WCO and its partners will continue to intensify their efforts to address environmental risks, with more enforcement initiatives planned for the future.