Basel Convention Overview

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention), is the most comprehensive global legal instrument on the transboundary movement and environmentally sound disposal of hazardous wastes. It was the primary response developed by the international community, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), subsequent to recognising the need for urgent action on hazardous wastes in the late 1980s. As of January 2021, there are 188 Parties to the Convention, inclusive of 14 Caribbean countries as well as economic integration organisations.

Map of Caribbean Parties to the Basel Convention

The overarching goal of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of generating, handling and transporting hazardous and other wastes.

Other objectives of the Convention, based upon principles with respect to the generation, management and disposal of hazardous and other wastes include:

  • Minimising the amount of hazardous wastes that are generated, and ensuring that they are managed in clearly defined environmentally sound ways;
  • Reducing transboundary movements of wastes to a minimum, consistent with managing them in environmentally sound and efficient ways, and controlling those permitted under the terms of the Convention;
  • Assisting (primarily developing countries and those with economies in transition) with the environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate; and
  • Encouraging wherever possible, the in-country management of hazardous wastes.

The scope of the Convention encompasses a wide range of wastes classified as hazardous wastes based on their origin, composition and characteristics as outlined in Article I and Annexes I, II VIII and IX to the Convention. There are also two types of wastes categorised as other wastes under Article I and Annex II, namely household wastes and incineration wastes. Some of the wastes regulated by the Convention include biomedical and healthcare wastes, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) wastes, used oils and lead acid batteries, electrical and electronic waste, asbestos waste, used fluorescent bulbs, and many more.

Basel Convention Partnerships

Partnerships are identified by the Basel Convention as a means of ensuring effective implementation of the Convention’s objectives. They serve as opportunities for key stakeholders to enhance collaboration, capitalise on global expertise and knowledge, leverage international resources and experiences for the development of guidelines, and work together to develop global solutions, tools and strategies for the ESM of used products and waste. Five (5) global partnerships have been established under the Convention to support the management of mobile phones, computing equipment, illegal traffic, household wastes and plastics.

Text of the Basel Convention

The text of the Basel Convention was adopted on 22 March 1989 and entered into force on 5 May 1992.

Subsequent amendments to the Convention’s text include:

  • The Ban Amendment (1995) as per decision III/1 of the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 3);
  • Addition of Annexes VIII and IX (1998) by the COP 4 and subsequent changes; and
  • Amendments to Annexes II, VIII and IX (2019)  by COP 14 to include plastic wastes.

Guidance Documents

Technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of waste falling under the scope of the Basel Convention have been developed and adopted by the COP to aid Parties in ensuring and achieving environmentally sound management of wastes as obligated by the Convention.

Country Contacts

Countries designate national focal points and competent authorities to oversee the national implementation of the Convention, to ensure that national obligations are met and to collect and submit information as provided for in Articles 13 and 16.