These are explanations of some frequently used terms and the CWIT Consortium’s answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question that is not answered here or would like to provide additional information on any of the topics below please contact us.

What is WEEE?

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

What is EEE?

Electrical and Electronic Equipment

What do we mean by waste?

Substances or objects which are disposed of, or are intended to be disposed of, or are required to be disposed of by national legislation.

What is e-Waste?

Electrical or electronic equipment which is waste, including all fractions, components, sub-assemblies and consumables which are part of the product at the time of discarding.

What is hazardous waste?

There are a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” by the Basel Convention based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics (article 1 and annexes I, III, VIII and IX of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, 1989)

What is illegal trade in waste?

Trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes in breach of the provisions of the Basel Convention

What is an “Organized Crime Group”?

A structured group of three or more persons existing over a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences […] in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit” (UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 2000)

What is the Basel Convention?

The overarching objective of the Basel Convention (UN Basel Convention 1989) is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash.
The provisions of the Convention center around the following principal aims:

  • the reduction of hazardous wastes and other wastes generation and the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and other wastes, wherever the place of disposal;
  • the restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and other wastes except where it is in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management; and
  • a regulatory system applying to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.

The first aim is addressed through a number of general provisions requiring States to observe the fundamental principles of environmentally sound waste management (article 4). A number of prohibitions are designed to attain the second aim: hazardous wastes may not be exported to Antarctica, to a State not party to the Basel Convention, or to a party having banned the import of hazardous or other wastes (article 4). Parties may, however, enter into bilateral or multilateral agreements on hazardous waste management with other parties or with non-parties, provided that such agreements are “no less environmentally sound” than the Basel Convention (article 11). In all cases where transboundary movement is allowed, it may take place only if the requirements of environmentally sound management are observed and if it is carried out in accordance with the Convention’s regulatory system.

The regulatory system is the cornerstone of the Basel Convention. Based on the concept of prior informed consent, it requires that, before an export may take place a contract between the exporter and disposer specifying environmentally sound management of the wastes be concluded and that the authorities of the State of export notify – or require that the generator or exporter to do so –  the authorities of the prospective States of import and transit, providing them with detailed information on the intended movement. The movement may only proceed if and when all States concerned have given their written consent (articles 6 and 7). The Basel Convention also provides for cooperation between parties, ranging from exchange of information on issues relevant to the implementation of the Convention to technical assistance, particularly to developing countries (articles 10 and 13).

The Secretariat is required to facilitate and support this cooperation, acting as a clearing-house (article 16). In the event a transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other amounts to a case of illegal traffic as defined by the Convention, wastes or cannot be completed as foreseen, the Convention attributes responsibility to one or more of the States involved, and imposes the duty to ensure environmentally sound disposal, either by take back or re-import into the State of generation or otherwise (articles 8 and 9).

The Convention also provides for the establishment of regional or sub-regional centres for training and technology transfers regarding the management of hazardous wastes and other wastes and the minimization of their generation to cater to the specific needs of different regions and subregions (article 14). Fourteen such centres have been established. They carry out training and capacity building activities in the regions.