Basel Convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted in 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland. It came as a response to a public outcry following the discovery in Africa and other parts of the developing world in the 1980s of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad. The Convention is placed under the United Nations Environment Programme. It came into effect from 1992.

Basel Convention

With rising environmental awareness in the industrialized countries, there was a tightening of environmental regulations which escalated the costs of disposing of hazardous wastes. This led to the growth of not in my backyard (NIMBY) syndrome whereby the developed country operators found it cheaper to dispose of such wastes in developing countries and Eastern European nations where the levels of environmental awareness are not as high as in the developed countries. Laxity in environmental laws, regulations and their enforcement in these countries is also a reason for the rise in the movement of such wastes from the developed countries into the developing countries.


The prime objective of the Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. The Convention covers a wide range of wastes defined as "hazardous wastes" based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics. In addition, two types of wastes defined as "other wastes" viz., household waste and incinerator ash are also brought under the scope of the Convention.

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Principal Aims

The Convention aims at:

  • Reducing the generation of hazardous wastes and promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, irrespective of the place of disposal.
  • Restricting the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes except in those cases where it is perceived to be in compliance with the principles of environmentally sound management.
  • Putting in place a regulatory system which is applicable to cases where transboundary movements are permitted.

Wastes under the Basel Convention

Wastes 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.


Annex I of the Convention, as further clarified in Annexes VIII and IX lists those wastes that are classified as hazardous and subject to the control procedures under the Convention. Annex II of the Convention identifies those wastes that require special consideration (known as "other wastes", and which primarily refer to household wastes).

Examples of wastes regulated by the Basel Convention:

  • Biomedical and healthcare wastes.
  • Used oils.
  • Used lead acid batteries.
  • Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) wastes.
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).
  • Thousands of chemical wastes generated by industries and other consumers.

However, the Convention is not legally binding on the member countries.

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