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Old Ships and Obsolete Computers Part of Major Transition for Global Waste Management
14/ 05/ 2010

Old Ships and Obsolete Computers Part of Major Transition for Global Waste ManagementGreater emphasis on highlighting the links between waste management, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and human health and livelihoods underpins a new 10-year vision for the Basel Convention recommended by governments today.

Governments recommend new 10-year vision for managing transboundary movements of hazardous wastes

Geneva, 14 May 2010 - Greater emphasis on highlighting the links between waste management, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and human health and livelihoods underpins a new 10-year vision for the Basel Convention recommended by governments today.

Three hundred delegates from 106 countries welcomed the Convention's Strategic Framework 2012-2021 on the final day of a meeting in Geneva at which a range of pressing issues on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal have been considered.

Other key outcomes of the five-day meeting include moves to ensure strong controls on the rapidly growing ship dismantling industry, progress developing global recycling guidelines for used computers and support for furthering the objectives of the Ban Amendment to the Convention which prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed countries to developing countries.

The Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, Katharina Kummer Peiry, said the forum's positive results come at a time of renewed interest in the management of transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous wastes.

"The international community is signaling its support for increased efforts to promote the environmentally sound management of waste during a time of transition with new waste streams, new technological developments and ways in which waste moves around the world," Ms. Kummer Peiry said.

"Governments have taken a visionary approach to determining the future direction of the Convention and they're calling for it to play a decisive role globally, regionally and nationally in strengthening the links to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to benefit human health and livelihoods.

"This also follows the agreement by governments in Bali, Indonesia, in February to have more cooperative action by the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions as a first step to boosting their delivery within countries," she added.

The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) to the Basel Convention - its main subsidiary body - convened its seventh session at the Geneva International Conference Centre this week (from 10 to 14 May 2010).

The wide-ranging recommendations from the meeting will be put to the Basel Convention's next Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to be held in Cartagena, Colombia, from 17-21 October 2011.

The main outcomes include:

Endorsement by Parties to the Basel Convention of:
- Revised technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of used tyres
- Technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of mercury wastes, and
- Draft technical guidelines on the co-processing of hazardous waste in cement kilns;
In relation to the environmentally sound dismantling of ships, there was agreement on criteria for assessing whether the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) International Convention adopted in Hong Kong in 2009 for the safe and environmentally-sound recycling of ships establishes an equivalent level of control and enforcement as that of the Basel Convention;
Positive reaction to the Indonesian-Swiss country-led initiative to improve the effectiveness of the Basel Convention by furthering the objectives of the Ban Amendment, namely analyzing why transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and other wastes occur, especially to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, when environmentally sound management cannot be ensured;
A review of the operation of the Basel Convention Regional Centres and preparation of a workplan for strengthening their operations at the regional and national level;
Measures to combat illegal trafficking in hazardous wastes and strengthen enforcement by countries of the Convention's provisions, which included giving all delegates an instruction manual on national reporting prepared by the Secretariat;
A progress report on PACE - a public-private partnership under the umbrella of the Basel Convention - included advances in developing global refurbishment and recycling guidelines for used end-of-life computing equipment and confirmation of nine countries where e-waste surveys would be conducted: Burkina Faso, Jordan, Samoa, El Salvador, Serbia, Cote d'Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Brazil.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes.

Contacts:
Michael Stanley-Jones, Press Focal Point/Public Information Officer, Joint Services of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention, Tel: +41-22-917-8668 (m) +41-79-730-4495, email: msjones@pops.int.

Nelson Sabogal, Chief, Convention Services and Governance Unit, Secretariat of the Basel Convention, +41-22-917 8212, e-mail: Nelson.Sabogal@unep.org

Notes to Editors

Environmentally Sound Dismantling of Ships
Ship dismantling - or ship recycling - is the process by which end-of-life ships are converted into steel and other recyclable items, and the remainder is then disposed of. These operations are performed mainly in South Asia, with India, Bangladesh and Pakistan currently occuping 70-80% of the market. China and Turkey occupy much of the remainder.
The industry offers a valuable end-of-life solution to old ships although there are concerns about the environmental, health and safety standards employed, especially in South Asia, as the industry has historically gravitated towards low labour cost countries with weak regulations on occupational health and safety and the environment.
The Basel Convention applies to ships bound for dismantling. However, given the nature of international shipping, it can be difficult to enforce. Negotiations were under way in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for a legally binding instrument on ship recycling which resulted in the adoption of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in May 2009.
The Basel Convention Parties have requested the IMO to ensure that the Hong-Kong Convention establishes an equivalent level of control as that established under the Basel Convention.
With the agreement today on the criteria, a preliminary assessment will now be conducted and presented at COP 10, commencing a process that may lead to the exclusion from the Basel Convention of those ships which would be covered by the Hong Kong Convention (when it enters into force).

Technical guidelines on mercury waste
The further development of technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of mercury wastes is part of the work programme of the Open-ended Working Group for 2009-2011. The Government of Japan has taken the lead in the development of these guidelines and a draft was considered at the meeting in Geneva this week.

This work feeds into the negotiations on a legally binding instrument on mercury wastes in terms of the environmentally sound management of mercury before the proposed Mercury Convention comes into force. It means that countries facing problems in managing mercury and its wastes do not have to wait until the negotiations are completed.

The UN Environment Programme is staging the first negotiating session on a legally-binding agreement on mercury in Stockholm, Sweden, from 7-11 June 2010.

Further Resources
Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal