International Management of Hazardous Wastes: The Basel Convention and Related Legal Rules

By Katharina Kummer | Go to book overview

I
Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes in International Law

TRANSBOUNDARY MOVEMENTS OF HAZARDOUS WASTES: QUANTITIES AND CAUSES

A. Quantities of Hazardous Wastes

Growing amounts of wastes containing hazardous substances are generated world-wide, particularly in the industrialized nations. World production of chemicals has multiplied in the past decades: according to one estimate, the total volume of organic chemicals produced globally went from approximately 7 million metric tons in 1950 to over 250 million metric tons in 1985.1 The amount of hazardous wastes is believed to have increased accordingly. Faced with the problem of disposal, holders of hazardous wastes have in recent years increasingly chosen the option of exporting them to an area outside the jurisdiction of the state in which they were generated, either for further treatment or disposal in another country, or for dumping or incineration at sea. The practice of shipping hazardous wastes over long distances for disposal far from the place of generation constitutes a serious threat to human health and the environment.

It is very difficult to estimate the quantities of hazardous wastes involved. Not only do numerous hazardous waste transactions take place without the knowledge or beyond the control of state authorities,2 which means that the actual quantities probably exceed official estimates by far, but systematic monitoring and data collection does not exist in many states. Where it does exist, the methods used are far from uniform. Also, national definitions of 'wastes' and 'hazardous wastes' differ widely, and states accordingly monitor different types of wastes in different ways and to a different extent.3 Many contemporary laws and regulations base the definition of wastes on the subjective notion that a substance is subject to disposal by its

____________________
1
United Nations, ( 1989), p. 6 (quoting an estimate by UNEP's International Register for Potentially Toxic Chemicals). See also Tolba and El-Kholy, ( 1992), p. 249; Richter, ( 1989), p. 11. et seq.
2
Cf. United Nations, ( 1989); World Resources Report 1990-91, p. 328; also Grefe and Bernstorff, ( 1991); Kiss and Shelton, ( 1991), p. 313.
3
UNEP, ( 1993), p. 330; OECD, (1993b); World Resources Report 1990-91, pp. 315, 328; Bureau de la gestion des déchets, 1993); Hackett, ( 1990), p. 313 et seq.; Richter, ( 1989), p. 111 et seq.; Porteous, ( 1985), p. 2 et seq.

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