International hazardous waste conventions
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal first came into force in 1992. The Convention puts an onus on exporting countries to ensure that hazardous wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner in the country of import.
The Basel Convention places obligations on countries that are party to the Convention. 151 Countries have ratified the Basel Convention as at December 2002. These obligations are to:
- Minimise generation of hazardous waste;
- Ensure adequate disposal facilities are available;
- Control and reduce international movements of hazardous waste;
- Ensure environmentally sound management of wastes; and
- Prevent and punish illegal traffic.
Australia signed the Basel Convention in 1992. The Convention is implemented in Australia by the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989.
For a copy of the Basel Convention or more information on how it operates, contact the Hazardous Waste Section of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities or the United Nations Basel Convention Secretariat.
The Waigani convention
The Basel Convention establishes a global control system for hazardous wastes being shipped from one country to another. States which are Parties to the Convention must not trade in hazardous wastes with non-Parties but an exception to this is provided for in Article 11 of the Convention, whereby Parties may enter into agreements or arrangements either with other Parties or with non-Parties.
These agreements or arrangements can also set out controls which are different from those prescribed by the Convention itself, provided such controls do not reduce the level of environmental protection intended by the Convention.
The Waigani Convention (Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region) is one such agreement which is entered into force in October 2001.
The main effect of this Convention is to ban the import of all hazardous and radioactive wastes into South Pacific Forum Island Countries. It also enables Australia to receive hazardous wastes exported from South Pacific Forum Island countries which are not Parties to the Basel Convention. There are 24 countries within the coverage area of the Waigani Convention.
As at December 2002, ten parties had ratified the Waigani Convention. These were Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kirribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
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
You are welcome to call in and see us by appointment.