Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989

About the Act

The main purpose of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 (‘the Act’) is to regulate the export and import of hazardous waste to ensure that hazardous waste is disposed of safely so that human beings and the environment, both within and outside Australia, are protected from the harmful effects of the waste.

The original Act of 1989 only controlled movements of wastes that lacked financial value, usually destined for final disposal operations (for example, by incineration or landfill). In 1996, the Act was amended to include wastes that possess financial value, usually destined for recycling and recovery operations. These amendments enabled Australia to meet all of its obligations under the Basel Convention.

You need to know about the Act if:

  • you are a waste broker, agent or dealer;
  • you plan to move hazardous waste in and out of Australia;
  • you produce hazardous waste which will be exported; or
  • you import hazardous waste for recovery or final disposal.

The Act requires that a permit be obtained before hazardous waste is exported from Australia or imported into Australia.

Basic requirements of the Act

1. Is your material a waste?

Only hazardous wastes are covered by the Act. It is sometimes not clear whether a material is a waste or not a waste, so please contact us to seek further guidance and discuss.

2. Is your waste hazardous?

A waste is hazardous for the purposes of the Act if it is listed as hazardous in the Basel Convention or in the OECD Regulations. Please contact us to seek further guidance and discuss.

3. Is your waste intended for final disposal or recovery?

Final disposal of waste involves operations such as incineration or landfill. The Australian Government has banned exports of waste for final disposal except in exceptional circumstances. Recovery includes recycling or reclamation of waste materials and also includes recovery of energy from waste (except by direct incineration). These shipments are permitted provided certain conditions are met. Please contact us to seek further guidance and discuss

4. Where is the waste coming from or going to?

Waste shipments may only take place between countries which are Parties to the Basel Convention, except where a specific arrangement exists with a non-Party under Article 11 of the Basel Convention. An Article 11 arrangement is implemented in Australia through a particular set of Regulations. There are two sets of these Regulations:

  • The OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Decision Regulations which control all movements for recovery operations within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) area; and
  • The Waigani Convention Regulations covers countries in the South Pacific region.

Lists of OECD countries, and countries which are party to the Basel Convention and countries which are party to the Waigani Convention can be found on the following web sites:

The Act does not affect movements of hazardous waste within Australia. You should contact your State or Territory Environment Department for further information on internal movements.

Annual reports

Information about the implementation of the Act is available in the departmental annual report.

Contact us

For further information in relation to the international movement of hazardous waste please contact:

Hazardous Waste Section
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
Phone: 1800 803 772
Fax: 02 6274 1164
Email: hwa@environment.gov.au

You are welcome to call in and see us by appointment.