Know : Basel Convention ( Treaty to prevent transfer of Hazardous Waste between Nations)

Basel_ConventionWhat is the Basel Convention?

The Basel Convention is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs). It does not, however, address the movement of radioactive waste. The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.

The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash.

The Convention was opened for signature on 22 March 1989, and entered into force on 5 May 1992. As of May 2013, 179 states and the European Union are parties to the Convention. Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified (Making something valid by formally ratifying or confirming it) it.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Nations that have signed and ratified the Basel Convention, along with nations that have signed but have not ratified the agreement. Rest not signed

When and Why it was formed?

With the tightening of environmental laws (for example, RCRA) in developing nations in the 1970s, disposal costs for hazardous waste rose dramatically. At the same time, globalization of shipping made a transboundary movement of waste more accessible, and many LDCs were desperate for foreign currency. Consequently, the trade in hazardous waste, particularly LDCs, grew rapidly.

One of the incidents which led to the creation of the Basel Convention was the Khian Sea waste disposal incident, in which a ship carrying incinerator ash from the city of Philadelphia in the United States dumped half of its load on a beach in Haiti before being forced away. It sailed for many months, changing its name several times. Unable to unload the cargo in any port, the crew was believed to have dumped much of it at sea.

Another is the 1988 Koko case in which 5 ships transported 8,000 barrels of hazardous waste from Italy to the small town of Koko in Nigeria in exchange for $100 monthly rent which was paid to a Nigerian for the use of his farmland.

These practices have been deemed “Toxic Colonialism” by many developing countries.

Export of E-Waste

Export of E-Waste

Only around 4% of hazardous wastes that come from OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries are actually shipped across international borders. These wastes include, among others, chemical waste, radioactive waste, municipal solid waste, asbestos, incinerator ash, and old tires. Of internationally shipped waste that comes from developed countries, more than half is shipped for recovery and the remainder for final disposal.

Increased trade in recyclable materials has led to an increase in a market for used products such as computers. This market is valued in billions of dollars. At issue is the distinction when used computers stop being a “commodity” and become a “waste”.

As of 2013, there are 180 parties(countries) to the treaty. The UN member states that are not party to the treaty are Angola, Burma, East Timor, Fiji, Grenada, Haiti, São Tomé and Príncipe,San Marino, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Tuvalu, United States, and Vanuatu.

Country wise details on Status of RatificationsCountry ContactsAgreementsImports / Export RestrictionsNationalDefinitionsNationalLegislationNationalReporting and Country Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the respective links from their site. (Click on the respective link)

Courtesy and Source : Wikipedia and http://www.basel.int/

Japan is Successful with Circular Economy

Circular

Japanese recycling rates are extraordinary:  98 per cent for metals for example and, in 2007, just five per cent of Japan’s waste ended up in a hole in the ground, compared with 48 per cent for the UK in 2008. Japan’s appliance recycling laws ensure the great majority of electrical and electronic products are recycled, compared with 30-40 per cent here.  Of these appliances, 74-89 per cent of the materials they contain are recovered. Perhaps more significantly, many of these materials go back into the manufacture of the same type of products from which they were reclaimed. This is the ‘closed-loop’ holy grail of recycling essential for a truly circular economy.

So how has Japan managed it and can we do it too?

How it works over there
Collaboration is at the heart of the Japanese system. The public plays a part by separating out recyclables, paying recycling fees directly and holding companies to account when necessary. Manufacturers do their bit by using more recycled materials, and making longer lasting products that are easier to repair and recycle. The system has two key features:

Consumer-friendly collection: The system for collecting old appliances for recycling is so comprehensive and easy to use it’s harder not to recycle them. Old appliances are collected by retailers either in store or when delivering a new appliance. For old IT equipment, you can request that the original manufacturer collect it from your doorstep, or you can take it to any Post Office and have it sent back to them. This is standard across Japan, making it well understood and widely used.

Recycling infrastructure is co-owned: The law requires consortia of manufacturers to run disassembly plants, ensuring they directly benefit from recovering materials and parts. Because recovery is a legal requirement, companies invest for the long term in recycling infrastructure. And because they own both manufacturing and recovery facilities, companies send product designers to disassembly factories to experience the frustrations of taking apart a poorly designed product. Some companies even put prototypes through the disassembly process to make sure they’re easy to recover.

This system doesn’t just work well, it’s also big business:  Japan’s reuse and recycling economy was worth £163 billion in 2007 (7.6% of GDP) and employed 650,000 people.

– Courtesy & Source : http://greenallianceblog.org.uk

In recent years, circular economy has driven extensive discussion as the current economic development is being constrained by ecological environment and resources. The Japanese mode of circular economy is a good reference. A Report by Luying Hao, Xiujun Ji, Yongqing Zhang from China shares their insights on Japan’s Circular economy and its significance for China. Click here to read the PDF document. 

AWARE : MORE ON CIRCULAR ECONOMY : CHANGE FOR OUR FUTURE!

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