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UN Basel Convention: BIR participates in 13th meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG)

  • 28 February 2023

Ross Bartley and Alev Somer represented BIR at the 13th meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) of the United Nations Basel Convention from 21 to 23 February 2023 in Geneva.

Parties and Observers had three days to address the challenges of updating the Basel Convention and its associated tools on issues including e-waste, plastic wastes and modernising the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure. The OEWG agreed on the recommendations for the strategic, legal and technical matters, for consideration by the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) due to take place in May 2023 in Geneva.

On technical matters, the OEWG advanced with the negotiations on the technical guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Plastic Waste against the backdrop of the negotiations for a new legally binding global treaty on plastics pollution. BIR is working with all parties and observers to update the Guidelines and encourage their adoption in May this year.

On strategic and implementation matters, at the previous COP of the Basel Convention, delegates agreed to amend the Convention to make all electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) subject to the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure. With this amendment, it is expected to have a significant increase of notification numbers from 1st January 2025. In that respect, the OEWG addressed the necessity to modernise and simplify the PIC procedure to process notifications with a harmonised electronic system that should lower costs and increase speed. To that end, The OEWG will recommend the upcoming COP to establish a small intersessional working group (SIWG) to identify challenges related the PIC procedure and solutions to improve its functioning. BIR warns that agreeing and implementing electronic notification systems around the world will take years if not decades. Afterall, discussions in other intergovernmental organisations were going on at the end of the last millennium and have not yet brought in compatible electronic notification systems!

Lastly, on legal matters, the expert working group (EWG) that had been established some seven years ago to review the Convention Annex I (categories of waste and waste constituents to be controlled), and its Annex III (hazardous characteristics) and its Annex IV (disposal operations) continues its work. While Parties at the OEWG discussed proposed amendments to these Annexes, it was decided that further work is needed. Therefore, it was recommended that the COP 16 mandates the EWG to continue to develop its recommendations for the following OEWG (14) meeting in 2024. Still, BIR deplores the proposals to add more metals into Annex I for example as powders (Al) or granules (Cu) without the caveat text that “In general pure metal alloys in their massive form (not contaminated with hazardous substances) are not considered as hazardous waste.”