In 1989, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposals treaty was created. This treaty, better known as the Basel Convention, was established to prevent developed nations from transferring their hazardous waste materials to less developed countries. The United Nations and 181 states are parties to the international treaty; the United States signed the Convention but they have yet to ratify it.
The current issue is determining what developed nations should do with their waste. Many developed nations, like Canada for instance, has been shipping their waste products off to less developed countries. This is a prime example of the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. Recently, the Philippines has requested to re-export 50 storage containers back to Canada. Representative Leah Paquiz stated, “I filed for a Congressional Inquiry in aid of legislation regarding the unlawful importation of the 50 container vans filled with garbage. Clearly, this is a reflection of our dignity as a nation.” While both Canada and the Philippines are parties to the Basel Convention, neither of them have ratified the Basel Ban Amendment which completely prohibits the shipment of hazardous wastes to less developed countries.
The main reason that developed nations are shipping their waste to less developed countries is to avoid the costs of appropriate treatment for the waste. The European Union (EU) has set up a system to regulate transboundary shipments of waste within other EU countries or to outside developing countries called Waste Shipment Regulation (WShipR). WShipR implements the Basel Convention which bans exports of hazardous waste from developed countries to less developed countries. Less developed counties do not have proper and sufficient waste treatment capacity to dispose of the waste in an environmentally safe manner.
So while some nations are taking steps towards implementing the Basel Convention, others are holding off on ratifying the treaty. Do you think that the United States should ratify the treaty? If a nation creates waste, shouldn’t it be their responsibility to dispose of it properly? If we keep sending our waste to less developed nations, it will lead to severe environmental degradation. Who should have the ultimate burden of waste disposal?
Photo: Basel Action Network (BAN)