Posted on 11/09/2018 in category Legislation

Reclassification threat to recyclers’ operations

BIR here reports on the 11th Open-Ended Working Group of the UN-EP Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. Key issues for recyclers include a potentially damaging reclassification of mechanical recycling operations, as well as the burden producers put on recyclers by designing with chemicals that are increasingly being prohibited.


The eleventh meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention (OEWG-11) took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from September 3 to 8 2018.

OEWG-11 discussed and decided upon: strategic issues; scientific and technical matters; legal, governance and enforcement matters; international co-operation and co-ordination; and its programme of work and budget.

Key issues for BIR members are:

•    Review of Annexes I, III and IV to the Basel Convention. The biggest threat to BIR members is “Mechanical Recycling Operations” being reclassified in Annex IVb as “pre-treatment/interim/preparatory operations” which would then exclude all mechanical processors from being classified as recyclers. The next biggest threat is extension of the Convention’s prohibition and severe PIC controls to other substances proposed to be added to Annex I such as aluminium and tin that are not hazardous;
•    Review of Annexes II, VIII and IX (Annex II is for controlling non-hazardous wastes and currently includes only: Y46 Wastes collected from households; and Y47 Residues arising from the incineration of household wastes. So adding substances and materials to Annex II would increase Basel Convention controls and prohibitions on non-hazardous wastes. q.v. Norway proposal);
•    The Basel Convention Partnership Programmes (on computers, on household waste and on plastics);
•    Technical guidelines on environmentally sound management (inter alia: on recycling; on extended producer responsibility; and on the informal sector);
•    Technical guidelines on transboundary movements of electrical and electronic waste and used electrical and electronic equipment, in particular regarding the distinction between waste and non-waste under the Basel Convention;
•    New topics of marine plastic litter, microplastics and waste-containing nanomaterials.

The OEWG also considered:

•    Aspects of the “Product-Chemicals-Wastes interface” where limits are set on the chemical constituents in waste that can or cannot be recycled. BIR is concerned about the burden producers put on recyclers by designing with chemicals that are increasingly being prohibited. Problems for recyclers are: not knowing where producers put those chemicals in their products; knowing how to test restricted chemical levels; separating contaminated from uncontaminated recyclables; and bearing costs of hazardous waste destruction;
•    Basel Convention co-operation with the World Customs Organization on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System in order to better identify transboundary movements of wastes controlled by the Basel Convention;
•    And finally, the “Ban Amendment Decision III/1” which will come into force by its ratification by just two more Parties from among the following: Australia; Bahamas; Bangladesh; Brazil; Canada; Comoros; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cuba; Democratic Republic of Congo; India; Israel; Japan; Mexico; Namibia; New Zealand; Pakistan; Philippines; Republic of Korea; Russian Federation; St Kitts and Nevis; Senegal; United Arab Emirates; and Vietnam.

Importantly on June 2 2018, the government of Norway submitted an application for the removal of all non-hazardous plastic wastes from Annex IX and for placing those wastes in Annex II. The implications for EU businesses, after the necessary follow-up amendment of the EU Waste Shipments Regulation, would be that non-hazardous plastic wastes would be prohibited for export from the EU to non-OECD countries, and intra-OECD transboundary movements would be subject to prior written notification and consent, while ISRI analyses indicate that US companies would be allowed to export only in limited cases. After considerable concerns were expressed about its initial proposal during OEWG-11, Norway modified its proposal to allow certain plastic waste to remain in Annex IX. The final listings may be determined at the next Conference of the Parties which will take place (together with the Stockholm Convention and Rotterdam Convention) from April 29 to May 10 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Details of the technical, strategic and legal issues dealt with by OEWG-11

Technical issues

•    Technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with persistent organic pollutants;
•    Technical guidelines on transboundary movements of electrical and electronic waste and used electrical and electronic equipment, in particular regarding the distinction between waste and non-waste under the Basel Convention;
•    Technical guidelines on incineration on land and in specially-engineered landfill;
•    Consideration of whether to update the technical guidelines on hazardous waste physico-chemical treatment and biological treatment;
•    National reporting;
•    Electronic approaches to notification and movement documents;
•    Marine plastic litter and microplastics;
•    Waste-containing nanomaterials.

Strategic issues

•    Strategic framework for the implementation of the Basel Convention for 2012-2021;
•    Preparation of the final evaluation of the strategic framework;
•    Practical manual for stakeholders to ensure that notifications of transboundary movements meet environmentally sound management requirements;
•    Guidance to assist Parties in developing efficient strategies for the recycling and recovery of hazardous and other wastes;
•    Guidance on how to address environmentally sound management in the informal sector;
•    Practical manuals on extended producer responsibility and financing systems for environmentally sound management.

Legal issues

•    Expert Working Group on the review of Annexes I, III and IV and related aspects of Annex IX to the Basel Convention;
•    Considering the review of Annexes II, VIII and IX to the Basel Convention;
•    Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE);
•    Partnership on the environmentally sound management of household waste (BIR Trade & Environment Director Ross Bartley spoke on “Enabling Recycling by Separating at Source”)
•    Co-operation with the World Customs Organization on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System;
•    Insurance, bond and guarantee issues regarding transit states.

OEWG-11 featured plenary meetings every morning, followed by concurrent and back-to-back Contact Group meetings without breaks. Side-events over lunchtime and in the evenings covered specific topics, such as:

•    Marine plastic litter and microplastics in the context of a circular economy;
•    Exhibition on marine litter;
•    Invitation-only, high-level event at the Palais de Nations on marine plastic litter and microplastics, where BIR was represented;
•    A “toxic playground” film;
•    How to accelerate effective implementation of the Bamako Convention;
•    Developing country and NGO perspectives regarding the impacts of the Norwegian proposal to reclassify plastic wastes under the Convention Annexes;
•    Presentation by BIR President Ranjit Singh Baxi on “Global Recycling Day” with UNIDO.

On the last day, Co-Chair Mohammed Khashashneh (Jordan) closed OEWG-11 at 1:52pm. A meeting of the Expert Working Group on the Review of the Annexes, chaired by Chile and Canada, took place that afternoon.

Contact: BIR Trade & Environment Director Ross Bartley.