Trade in hazardous waste

Zada Lipman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


1. Introduction Since the 1980s, the management and disposal of hazardous waste has been an ongoing and escalating global problem. While Northern countries generate most of this waste, a large quantity is exported to the global South. This places a disproportionate burden on countries that frequently lack the capacity to deal with such waste safely. It has serious impacts on human health and the environment in these countries and violates the principles of environmental justice. A number of highly publicized incidents of dumping in Africa led to the adoption of the Basel Convention in 1989. To protect developing countries, the Convention first regulated and then attempted to ban North–South movements of hazardous waste. Regrettably, the Convention has failed to achieve its objective. In the twenty-odd years that the Convention has been in force, the trade in hazardous waste has continued, often under the guise of recycling. Dumping incidents such as the Abidjan disaster are still occurring in Southern countries. This chapter will examine the reasons for the hazardous waste trade and the efficacy of the measures that have been taken to address it. The first section discusses the incidence of and motivation for North–South movements of hazardous waste as an example of toxic colonialism. This is followed by an analysis of the relationship between the hazardous waste trade and environmental justice. The next section considers the international regulation of hazardous waste transfers under the Basel Convention, including the decision to adopt a total ban on North–South trade, and the Basel Protocol. Reference is also made to agreements under Article 11 of the Convention and how they can be used to circumvent the obligations imposed. This is followed by a brief evaluation of the Bamako Convention and how it interacts with the Basel Convention, after which the chapter considers a dumping incident in 2006 in Abidjan and argues that the failure of international measures to address the hazardous waste trade is due to a combination of factors, including the weakness of the measures adopted, the illegal waste trade, and a lack of will on the part of some of the more cash-strapped Southern countries. The final section offers some recommendations as to how these factors can be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Environmental Law and the Global South
EditorsShawkat Alam, Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez, Jona Razzaque
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781107295414
ISBN (Print)9781107055698
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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