This chapter describes the rules of international law relating to the management of waste, including: prevention and treatment; disposal; recycling and re-use; and international movement (including trade). Liability for environmental damage caused by wastes is addressed in chapter 18, and there is an emerging case law at the European Court of Human Rights linking waste with the protection of fundamental human rights.1 Except for rules on international trade in wastes, this is not a well-developed area of international law, which law has to date played a limited role in preventing the generation of waste. Other than the special rules which are applicable in the Antarctic2 and the EC,3 there is no regional or global legal framework for waste management strategy. Rather, waste has traditionally been regulated incidentally to the attainment of other objectives. Among the relevant international legal measures are those regulating the disposal of wastes at sea;4 limiting atmospheric emissions of gaseous wastes;5 and preventing the disposal of wastes in rivers and other freshwaters.6 This approach does not address the source of the problem by preventing waste generation; it merely shifts the disposal problem to another environmental medium.
In the context of the massive increase in the generation of all types of waste resulting from industrialisation, this is a major shortcoming in the rules of international environmental law. Part of the problem is institutional: at the global level, no UN or other body has overall responsibility for waste, which has led to a fragmented, ad hoc and piecemeal international response. The Stockholm Conference did not focus on the issue of waste as such. Without specifically mentioning waste, Principle 6 of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration called for the discharge of toxic or other substances to be halted. The 1982 World Charter for Nature called for ‘special precautions’ to be taken to prevent
1 E.g. Lopez Ostra v. Spain (1995) 20 EHRR 277 (Judgment 41/1993/436/515 of 9 December 1994); and Guerra and Others v. Italy (1998) 26 EHRR 357 (Judgment 116/1996/735/932 of 19 February 1998); see chapter 7, pp. 301–2 above.
2 Chapter 14, pp. 716–18 below.
3 Chapter 15, pp. 786–93 below.
4 See pp. 684–5 below.
5 See pp. 686–7 below.
6 See pp. 685–6 below.