12th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (OEWG12)

1 and 3 September 2020 and March 2021

Summary Highlights of the Meeting

To maintain momentum on reducing the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the twelfth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the Basel Convention (OEWG12) convened a two-day online segment. This meeting followed an eventful Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2019 that included states amending the Convention to address plastic waste, the creation of a new Plastic Waste Partnership, and approval of the technical guidelines on e-waste and used electrical and electronic equipment. 2019 also saw the Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries, finally enter into force and bring renewed attention to waste shipments. The online meeting featured robust discussions on what more the Basel Convention should do on plastic wastes, waste lead-acid batteries, and transboundary e-waste shipments. On other issues, the OEWG took stock of progress and set deadlines for further inputs so the Secretariat and various intersessional groups could conclude their work in time to take decisions during a face-to-face segment of OEWG12.

OEWG12 was originally scheduled to meet in person in June 2020 but adjusted plans due to the pandemic. To address concerns voiced by many developing country parties about discussing the extensive and complex OEWG12 agenda entirely online, the Bureau divided OEWG12 into two segments: a two-day virtual meeting and a later face-to-face session.

The online session convened virtually on 1 and 3 September 2020 for the Secretariat and various expert and working groups to brief OEWG12 on the status of work items and suggest deadlines for inputs. The face-to-face session is tentatively scheduled to be held back-to-back with the Fifth UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2021.

Highlights for Thursday, 3 September 2020

The twelfth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (OEWG12) met for the second of two days of its online segment after a pause for a day of online side events covering key legal issues facing the Convention. Despite technical problems, the OEWG got through all of the technical and legal issues scheduled, at times having robust discussion.

  • Xingbao Gao

The OEWG considered further actions to address plastic waste under the Basel Convention and whether an effectiveness assessment of action so far can be undertaken. While intervening parties supported vigorous follow-up to the 2019 amendment of convention annexes to address certain plastic wastes, and the work of the new Plastic Waste Partnership, several expressed concern whether an effectiveness assessment is premature.

Consideration of the reports on a review of Convention annexes turned into an exchange about whether the Expert Working Group proposal would help or exacerbate the e-waste trade dilemma. Switzerland and Ghana introduced their proposal for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to consider amending a Convention annex to make all e-waste shipments, whether or not considered hazardous, as subject to the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure. Some parties expressed support for the idea, but several observers raised concerns that such an amendment would not improve the e-waste trade situation and would not support the transition towards a circular economy.

  • Marco Buletti

Participants considered whether to update existing technical guidelines on the physico-chemical treatment and biological treatment of hazardous waste and on environmentally sound management (ESM) of waste lead-acid batteries, with many indicating an urgent need to update the latter.

  • Jim Puckett

The OEWG looked at several other issues and set deadlines for comment submissions before further work is done, namely:

  • Several draft practical guidance for the development of inventories of: priority waste streams, plastic waste, obsolete pesticides, and waste batteries containing lithium;
  • A draft report on lessons learned from national and international electronic systems for exchanging information on or controlling the movements of goods and wastes;
  • Activities and studies on wastes containing nanomaterials;
  • Draft implementation guidance on Convention provisions on transit transboundary waste movements and on insurance, bond and guarantee;
  • A draft report on common interpretation of the meaning of “State of transit” in the Convention;
  • The draft terms of reference and work programme for the follow-up to PACE, the Basel partnership on computing equipment;
  • The revised draft overall guidance document on the environmentally sound management of household waste;
  • The Basel Convention proposal to the World Customs Organization on amending the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) regarding identification of plastic waste shipments.

OEWG12 is tentatively scheduled to resume face-to-face in Nairobi, Kenya in March 2021 back-to-back with the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA5) to take any decisions needed to prepare for COP15, currently scheduled for July 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • Rolph Payet

IISD, through its Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) Meeting Coverage, provided daily digital updates and will publish a summary and analysis report of the online segment of OEWG12 on Saturday, 5 September 2020.

Images from the Event

Videos from the Event

Highlights for Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The twelfth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (OEWG12) met for the first of two days of its online segment. Despite technical problems, the OEWG got through most of the strategic and technical issues scheduled for discussion.

Participants reviewed the status of the draft report on the evaluation of the strategic framework for the implementation of the Basel Convention for 2012–2021. One party raised concern about a recommendation in the draft report involving the Convention’s Implementation and Compliance Committee. Another requested an extension on submitting comments on the draft report. 

OEWG12 also briefly reviewed the status of work on the revised draft practical manual for stakeholders to ensure that notifications of transboundary movements meet environmentally sound management (ESM) requirements.

The OEWG spent much of its time reviewing the status of work on a series of technical guidelines, including:

  • updated technical guidelines on wastes containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury;  
  • draft updated technical guidelines on incineration on land and on specially engineered landfills; and
  • new technical draft guidelines on for the identification and ESM of plastic wastes and their disposal.

On the plastic guidelines, participants differed over whether they should further address upstream matters, covering plastic waste prevention.

  • Bernt Sigmund Ringvold

The OEWG also discussed the deadline for comments on parties’ use and testing of the technical guidelines on transboundary movements of e-waste and used electrical and electronic equipment adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2019. The deadline is set for 30 October 2020.

  • Jim Puckett

OEWG12 will resume on Thursday, 3 September 2020, after a day of side events.

Images from the Event

Videos from the Event

Basel Convention Resources

IISD ENB/ENB+ Meeting Coverage

IISD Resources