The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

Secretariat 2019a), noting that used equipment should normally be considered waste if:

contamination of recycled materials with harmful chemicals such as flame retardants, and heavy metals such as lead or cadmium (UNEP 2010). These materials may be used to make new products such as children’s toys and food contact items, resulting in increased risks to human health. The incorporation of banned chemicals into new products may occur when the people handling the waste and preparing it for recovery are unaware of the presence of chemicals in the materials or claim that they do not have separation techniques to remove toxic chemicals from waste. The Stockholm Convention on POPs, for example, granted a special exemption to Canada and the EU permitting the recycling of materials such as foam and plastics that contain Penta and OctaBDEs until 2030 (UNEP 2015a). The waste–product nexus: Fuel exported to Africa Although vehicle fuels with high sulfur and benzene content are banned in Europe because of their harmful effect on human health, some European countries export these dirty fuels to Africa. European traders and oil companies exploit the weak fuel standards of most West African States by blending cheap fuel with sulfur and other harmful additives, resulting in sulfur levels that average 200 times, and as much as 1,000 times, the European limits. The combustion of high-sulfur fuels is a significant contributor to air pollution in West Africa, causing health problems such as respiratory diseases and premature death. The countries trading these fuels are Parties to the Basel Convention, and most of the importing countries are also Parties to the Bamako Convention so these exports should be recognized as illegal trade. The Basel Convention prohibits Parties from exporting hazardous waste to Parties that have banned the import of suchwastes (Article 4(1)(b)). The Bamako Convention provides multiple definitions of hazardous waste, including “hazardous substances which have been banned, cancelled, or refused registration by government regulatory action, or voluntarily withdrawn from registration in the country of manufacture, for human health or environmental reasons” (InforMEA 2018; Article 2(1)(d)). Thus, the Bamako Convention significantly expands the breadth of covered substances, as compared to the Basel Convention. Because the low quality blend stocks cannot be used in Europe where they are manufactured, they are considered waste under the Bamako Convention, and therefore illegal exports under the Basel Convention. Yet the inadequate air quality regulations in many African countries means that some of this fuel can also be characterized as a product in African markets further complicating the issue of identifying and addressing illegal trade.

• The equipment is not complete, has defects, is damaged and cannot perform its key functions, or cannot be repaired at a reasonable cost • The protection against damage during transport, loading and unloading operations is inadequate • The equipment contains hazardous components that are prohibited for use under national legislation or is destined for disassembly Civil society organizations argue that the guidelines are incomplete and allow traders in electronicwaste to improperly claim the electronics are repairable, thereby escaping coverage by the Convention (BAN 2017). Another concern is the lack of clarity on how the regulations cover cathode ray tubes, electronic parts for product repairs, and secondhand electronic products with limited lifespans. At a regional level, the EU Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment provides criteria for distinguishing e-waste from non-e-waste, and includes requirements that the shipment be accompanied by proof that the equipment is destined for direct reuse, is fully functional and has appropriate protection against damage during transportation. Mercury is another waste that may be recovered for use as a product. Mercury waste can become a product in some jurisdictions, such as the EU, where recycled mercury can be used in products that are not banned under Part A of Annex II of Regulation (EU) 2017/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 on mercury. Elemental mercury can also be produced as a by-product of the refining of various non-ferrous ores and of the processing of oil and gas, and some refiners have recovered mercury from their wastes and produced elemental mercury for sale on domestic or international markets (UNEP 2006b). In addition, mercury is recycled and recovered from industrial processes that use mercury or mercury compounds, such as from the decommissioning of chlor-alkali facilities (UNEP 2017). The Basel Convention lists mercury-containing waste as a hazardous waste and has published technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of mercury wastes (BRS Secretariat 2019d). These guidelines also include information about proper mercury recycling and recovery. Finally, waste can become a product when a chemical is banned but remains present in products that are traded. This happens when products are produced with materials before they have been banned or when they are made from recycled materials that contain the banned chemicals. The improper recycling of e-waste, for example, can result in the

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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