Got Trash?

Boy in Lagos

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?

Sources: Treaty Collection; InterAksyon; European Commission

Photo: Basel Action Network (BAN)


  1. The United States should make an effort towards ratifying the treaty. The United States and other developed countries need to stop thinking about what the most cost efficient way of handling hazardous wastes is and start thinking about the environmental impact that these hazardous wastes can cause. Dumping waste into developing countries does not get rid of the problem. As you said, it simply just makes the problem someone else’s.

    I am curious as to why these developing countries accept such waste. My guess is that they are getting compensated in some way for accepting it. If developed countries want to get the waste out of their countries, they should at least assist the developing countries by helping build facilities that help clean this waste properly.

    There is always an economic solution to these problems. We can still send our waste to other countries, but it should be the responsibility of the exporting country to make sure that the country that it is sending its waste to have the proper infrastructure to clean up the waste properly.

  2. Refusing to dispose of waste properly and simply shipping it out to somewhere else is unacceptable. I do not see a reason why hazardous waste should be another country’s responsibility. I agree with what Paul suggested; the countries, which accept such waste, are most likely getting compensated, but this poses the question of proper disposal. I am curious to know if the countries, which accept the waste dispose of it properly, or if some of the underdeveloped countries have different standards and requirements.

    Generally, dealing with issues by delegating them to somebody else is not the best approach in my opinion. It would be different if the United States lacked the power or ability to dispose of this waste, but that is not the case. United States should therefore take steps to ratify the treaty and avoid causing more problems than solutions in the environmental realm. Especially since US plays a major role in finding solutions to environmental concerns.

  3. I think that the United States should ratify the treaty because simply dumping waste into other underdeveloped countries is not solving the problem but is only a short-term solution. This waste is creating environmental problems in other countries and is perpetuating a vicious cycle of moving the waste from country to country without ever solving the actual issue. I agree that if a nation creates waste, it should be their responsibility to dispose of it properly. By a nation building up a vast amount of waste, it should find the safest means of disposing of this waste.

    In addition, the burden of handling this waste should not be thrusted on underdeveloped countries that lack the financial capacity and resources to deal with this problem. Nations developing this waste need to dispose of it in an environmentally safe manner.

  4. The United States should ratify the treaty. The United States as well as other developed nations need to ratify the treaty and stop sending their waste to less developed nations. Yes, I do believe if a nation creates waste it should be their responsibility to dispose of it properly. The ultimate burden of waste disposal should be on the nation whose waste it is. The burden should not fall on the less developed nations. The developed nations are in a better situation to dispose of this waste. They should take responsibility for their waste and find a safe way to dispose of it instead of passing the job to a nation that is not capable of disposing of it. Therefore, they should not send the waste to less developed nations who do not have the financial capacity or the resources needed to safely dispose of the waste. These less developed nations do not have proper and sufficient waste treatment capacity to dispose of the waste in an environmentally safe manner. The developed nations need to start taking action and dispose of their waste properly instead of passing the problem to a less developed nation.

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