You are on page 1of 14

Important International


Waste management is not a well-developed area of
international law.
International law has to date played a limited role in
preventing the generation of waste.
Other than the special rules which are applicable in the
EC there is no regional or global legal framework for
waste management strategy.
Rather, waste has traditionally been regulated
incidentally to the attainment of other objectives.
Among the relevant international legal measures are:
Regulating the disposal of wastes at sea
limiting atmospheric emissions of gaseous wastes
preventing the disposal of wastes in rivers and other
This approach does not address the source of the

Problem (Institutional)
At the global level, no UN or other body has overall
responsibility for waste
The Stockholm Conference did not focus on the
issue of waste. Without specifically mentioning
waste, Principle 6 of the 1972 Stockholm
Declaration called for the discharge of toxic or other
substances to be halted.
The 1982 World Charter for Nature called for
special precautions to be taken to prevent
discharge of radioactive or toxic wastes, but did not
encourage minimization of the generation of such
Principle 14 of the Rio Declaration limited itself to
calling for effective co-operation to discourage or
prevent the relocation or transfer to other states of

First Attempt (OECD 1976)

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
Established the basis for more comprehensive international
approach to waste management.
Recommendation on a Comprehensive Waste Management
member countries implement waste policies to protect the
environment and ensure rational use of energy and resources while
taking account of economic constraints.
Recommended principles included the need to take environmental
protection into account; to encourage waste prevention; to promote
recycling; to use policy instruments; and to ensure access to
Endorsed administrative arrangements, including inventories of
wastes to be disposed; the organization of waste collection; the
establishment of disposal centers; the promotion of research and
development on disposal methods and low-waste technology; and
encouraging markets for recycled products

Development of Regional Rules

in Europe
Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD)
OECD member countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium,
Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and
the United States)

Conference on Security and Co-operation in

Europe (CSCE).
European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD)

Cairo 1987

UNEP Governing Council endorsed the 1987 Cairo

Guidelines and Principles for the Environmentally Sound
Management of Hazardous Wastes
Assist governments to develop policies for environmentally
sound management of hazardous wastes from generation
to final disposal
The Guidelines include:
General principles to protect human health and the
environment from damage from hazardous waste: all
practicable steps should be taken to ensure that management
of hazardous waste is conducted in accordance with applicable
international law in matters of environmental protection
Further principles address non-discrimination, international
cooperation, transfer of technology, and a recognition that the
protection of the environment is not achieved by the mere
transformation of one form of pollution into another, nor by the
mere transfer of the effects of pollution from one location to
another, but only by the use of the waste treatment
option . . .which minimizes the environmental impact.
Subsequent principles address generation and management;

In 1990, the EC adopted a framework
the Community Strategy for Waste
Management to guide waste
management policy for member
Following a Commission review of the
Strategy, in 1997, the EC Council
adopted a revised Community
Strategy for Waste Management

Defining Waste

Human activity generates waste in solid, liquid or gaseous form,

and these wastes have tended to be categorized by regulatory
instruments at the national and international level according to
two characteristics:
their source (municipal or industrial, including agricultural and mining)
their hazardous qualities (non-hazardous, hazardous and ultra-hazardous)

Cairo Guidelines, is to define waste by reference to national

law ??
1972 London Convention, wastes or other matters are defined
broadly to include material and substance of any kind, form or
description (too broad ??)
1989 Basel Convention, on the other hand, defines wastes by
reference to their end use: they are substances or objects which
are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required
to be disposed of by the provisions of national law (if
recycled ????)
EC law (1975) defined waste as any substance or object which
the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the

Defining Waste
Municipal waste, which is not deemed to be hazardous,
generally includes that generated by households, shops,
offices and other commercial units, and includes paper and
cardboard, glass, plastics, metals, organic matters and
putrescible materials
Industrial wastes include general factory rubbish,
packaging materials, organic wastes, acids, alkalis and
metalli-ferrous sludge.
Mining wastes are a by-product of the extraction process
and include topsoil, rock and dirt, which may be
contaminated by metals and coal.
Agricultural wastes comprise animal slurries, silage
effluents, tank washings following pesticide use, and empty
plastic packaging.
Radioactive wastes, which are generally subject to
special rules, are the product of nuclear power generation,
military sources, and medical, industrial and university

Prevention and Treatment

Few binding international obligations
establish targets and timetables, quantitative
restrictions or other limits on the generation
of municipal and industrial waste, including
hazardous and radioactive wastes.
As certain polluting gases, such as sulphur
dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic
compounds, and carbon dioxide are waste
products, treaties establishing quantitative
limits on atmospheric emissions of such
gases in effect limit the generation of certain


International environmental law is more developed in limiting

or prohibiting certain methods of disposal of particular waste
types, although no single instrument comprehensively and
globally regulates waste disposal.
Treaties now regulate:

the disposal of waste into the sea,

the disposal of waste into rivers and lakes,
the disposal of waste by incineration, and
into the atmosphere as a by-product of other activities.

The General Assembly has called on all states to ensure that

no nuclear-waste dumping practices occur that would infringe
upon the sovereignty of states
Other treaties promote:
Safe disposal of asbestos
Appropriate disposal of wastes during the demolition of buildings or
Appropriate disposal of chemicals

With the exception of the EC rules, international regulation of

The incineration of wastes is limited by treaty and
acts of international institutions in several regions
In the case of the EC, incineration is subject to
conformity with stringent technical standards
The 1996 Protocol and 1972 London Convention
prohibits the incineration of wastes at sea
The 1991 Bamako Convention prohibits the
incineration of hazardous waste at sea
Land-based incineration of waste is currently dealt
with only by EC legislation,

Recycling and Re-use

Political efforts to encourage recycling, recovery and reuse of materials and products have not yet led to
international legal commitments
The OECDs International Energy Agency is committed to
research and development on waste heat utilization and
municipal and industrial waste utilization for energy
The 1987 Montreal Protocol calls for research and
development and the exchange of information on the best
technologies for improving the recovery and recycling of
certain controlled and transitional ozone-depleting
1989 Basel Convention may provide a basis for future
international legislation by identifying disposal operations
which may lead to recovery, recycling and re-use
EC law requires member states to encourage the recovery

Trans-boundary Movements
1989 Basel Convention

The 1989 Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their
Disposal is intended to establish a global regime for
the control of international trade in hazardous and
other wastes.
The Convention, which entered into force on 5 May
1992, established rules designed to regulate trade
in wastes rather than prohibit it.
The Convention sets forth general obligations
requiring all parties to ensure that trans=boundary
movements of wastes are reduced to the minimum
consistent with environmentally sound and efficient
it reflects an approach premised upon the view that