This amendment, now ratified by 98 countries, and most recently, by Costa Rica, prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from member states of the European Union, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Liechtenstein to all other countries. This agreement today becomes a new Article (4a) of the Basel Convention.
The many countries and organizations, including Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network (BAN), that helped create the Basel Ban Amendment can celebrate their persistence. In view of the continuing export of unwanted electronic wastes, plastic wastes and old ships from North American and European countries to highly-polluting operations in Asia and Africa, the ban is seen as relevant today as it was 30 years ago when ships loaded with barrels of toxic waste left their deadly cargo on the beaches of African and Latin American countries.
“The Ban Amendment is the world’s foremost legal landmark for global environmental justice. It boldly legislates against a free-trade in environmental costs and harm,” said Jim Puckett, who has worked for 30 years to achieve and implement the ban, and now directs the Basel Action Network (BAN) from Seattle.
Despite the achievement of the Ban Amendment, Puckett warns that powerful industries – currently, the electronics and shipping industries – who have failed to overturn the Ban itself, are now trying to change the definition of that to which it applies. They do so in order to exempt their products (electronic waste and old ships) from the legal restraints imposed by the Convention and the Ban.
“Shamefully, electronics manufacturers like HP, Dell and Apple are lobbying for the Basel Convention to call non-functional electronics ‘non-waste’ and thus not subject to the Basel Ban if somebody simply declares these wastes as possibly repairable,” said BAN’s Puckett. “Likewise, the shipping industry has run screaming from their Basel responsibilities for old obsolete ships to create their own Hong Kong Convention, designed specifically to perpetuate the dumping of these toxic ships on South Asian beaches.”
Further, noticeably absent from the list of countries having ratified the ban is the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico. The United States, in fact, produces the most waste per-capita, but has failed to even ratify the basic Basel Convention while actively opposing the Ban Amendment.
“There can be no excuse for any country to use poorer countries as convenient dumping grounds for their waste, and it is especially ugly to do this in the name of recycling or the circular economy,” said Puckett. “With the Ban Amendment now international law, we hope and urge that all countries that have failed to ratify it will reconsider what it means to be global leaders in the age of globalization.”