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The implications of the Basel Convention for developing countries: the case of trade in non-ferrous metal-bearing waste

TitleThe implications of the Basel Convention for developing countries: the case of trade in non-ferrous metal-bearing waste
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsJohnstone N
Journal TitleResources Conservation And Recycling
Volume23
Pages1-28
KeywordsHazardous waste, International trade, Metal recycling
AbstractThe decision to introduce a ban on trade in hazardous waste with secondary valuesbetween Annex VII countries (the OECD, EU and Liechtenstein) and Annex VIII countries(other signatories) could have important implications for developing countries. The specificcase of non-ferrous waste has been chosen for analysis since it is an important component ofwaste trade flows and since a number of reports have been written which argue that the banmay have adverse economic and environmental effects for a number of developing countries.The study examines some of the relevant trade data as well as the underlying economicfactors behind the trade. In particular, the generation of non-ferrous metal (NFM)-bearingwaste, the use of non-ferrous metals in manufacturing sectors, and the production ofsecondary non-ferrous metals in the two areas will be examined. The main findings of thepaper are that: metal-bearing solid waste generation amongst developing countries is lowerin absolute terms, but the rate of growth is much higher than amongst OECD countries;many developing countries are exhibiting much faster rates of growth in demand fornon-ferrous metal than OECD countries due to shifts in the sectoral composition of theireconomies; international trade in NFM-bearing waste and scrap is relatively significant forsome metals, but those types of waste most likely to be affected by the ban do not appearto be important parts of this trade; and, imports of non-ferrous metal waste and scrap helpto explain the production of secondary metals, thus indicating that at least some of the tradein waste is motivated by demand for the waste for reclamation. The report concludes thatwhile the ban is far from being an ideal environmental policy instrument, it must beunderstood as a reflection of both market failures (in the market for hazardous wastetreatment and reclamation) and policy failures (in previous efforts to control adverse effectsfrom the trade). If appropriate criteria are applied (mainly waste classifications and Annexclassifications) then the environmental implications of the ban may be positive and thenegative economic consequences quite small. However, given the rate of growth in generationin many of the Annex VIII countries, such benefits are likely to be slight relative to theproblem of the treatment and reclamation of waste generated domestically. Thus, it is arguedthat if the ban is to be introduced, the dormant ‘positive’ measures in the Convention relatedto financial and technical assistance need to be revived.
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