By Raloff, Janet
Science News , Vol. 135, No. 13
New accord would control waste exports
Leaders from 105 nations last week drafted the first international convention to control the export of hazardous industrial wastes. The result of 18 months of intense treaty negotiations -- conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) -- the accord represents a compromise. Many developing nations wanted a total ban on international exports of toxic industrial wastes. Over the past year, even UNEP officials have argued that international shipments of hazardous wastes should eventually cease.
One impetus behind the new accord is the growing number of tempting -- but environmentally questionalbe -- waste-disposal contracts offered to developing nations. According to UNEP, one Swiss company offered Guinea-Bissau the equivalent of $40 per ton to bury its toxic wates -- a deal that could have netted the African state $600 million, or more than 3.5 times in 1984 gross national product. While this deal never went through, many similar arrangements have. And with dumping costs at U.S. hazardous-waste landfills running up to $250 per ton, while incineration costs have climbed to $1,500 per ton, pressure exists for such offers to continue. …