For the first time in three years, the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conference of the Parties took place in Geneva in July 2022—the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15).
The agenda was tough. Its goal was to progress environmental topics across all three COPs.
The main area of focus for TES were the Basel discussions, which tabled some significant changes. The hours were long, with activities running from early morning to late at night, including scheduled sessions, contact groups, and meetings. I have a real sense of admiration for the small-country delegations that worked at these events, which spanned 11 working days.
The game-changer for the Basel discussions was the proposed Ghana-Switzerland proposal, which having been discussed extensively over the past couple of years was finally agreed on during this COP. This change will establish new definitions for hazardous and non-hazardous e-waste and require most e-waste shipments to have PIC for transboundary movements.
During the COP, to facilitate the implementation of the Swiss–Ghana proposal, new entries were approved for the convention annexes, which mirror one another, as follows:
- A new entry Y49 in Annex II covers all non-hazardous waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
- A revised entry A1181 (which will eventually replace existing entry A1180) in Annex VIII covers all hazardous WEEE.
The implementation date for these changes is 2025, which might seem far away, but there is a lot to be done between now and then to meet it.
- Countries may have to amend national laws and regulations.
- There will be greater demand for hazardous waste logistics companies.
- PIC approvals will need to be secured for transboundary waste movements.
- The PIC process will need significant improvement to manage the volume of requests and approval times. There is evidence that this process can currently take up to four years.
These changes will add costs to recycling processes, which will add costs to the progress of the circular economy.
The desired outcome of these changes is that there will be less movement of waste from developed to developing countries. The effectiveness of this, however, remains to be seen.
The most recent Global E-waste Monitor states that only 17.4% of materials are properly recycled. Where do the rest go? It would appear that the rest is not following the Basel rules—but will more rigorous shipping rules fix this? Unlikely!
However, what is now important is that companies that are initiating circular economy programs and want to move materials across borders for re-use work with reputable companies that have the permits in place to facilitate the movement of their materials.
Getting waste materials to facilities that can effectively treat them and make them available for re-use is an important aspect of the circular economy and needs to be effectively facilitated in a timely manner. Developing dedicated resource recovery lanes could meet this need, but this needs focus and a sense of urgency with both companies and governments collaborating to make it happen.
About the author
Jean is TES’s Chief Sustainability Officer and brings with her a focus on sustainability, the circular economy, regulatory compliance, policy development, standards, leadership, education, and diversity.
Having worked for over 20 years on sustainability programs, Jean also supports TES’s Sustaining Tomorrow program.