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.
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.
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.
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.