Global crackdown on illegal waste shipping promotes cross-border cooperation

A simultaneous environmental inspection initiative at seaports in June and July 2010 involving authorities from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe resulted in the detection of illegal hazardous and electronic waste and confirmed the benefits of informal international cooperation to respond to illegal transboundary movement of hazardous wastes through seaports.

Initial results indicate that, of the 72 total targeted inspections conducted during the inspection month, 54 percent were infringements.

The illegal waste streams most often encountered during the event were: e-waste wrongly declared as second hand goods, waste batteries wrongly described as plastic or mixed metal scrap, and cathode ray tubes from television and computer monitors wrongly classified as metal scrap. In 19 of the reported cases of infraction, the illegal shipments of waste were returned to the country of origin. In nine further cases, the detected waste was treated in the country of detection.

More than one dozen countries participated in the International Hazardous Waste Inspections Exercise at Seaports, an initiative coordinated by the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement’s (INECE) Seaport Environmental Security Network (SESN). Involved authorities, which included customs, environment, police and port officials, con- ducted inspections at seaports across the globe.

Project participants employed a variety of inspections techniques, including intelligence-led enforcement, at-random inspections and bilateral information-sharing. Close communication between officials in importing and exporting countries and coordination of agencies at the national level proved to be critically important in detecting and stopping illegal shipments.

“The sheer volume of containers moving through seaports makes it difficult to catch the bad guys,” said Durwood Zaelke, director of the INECE Secretariat. “It is essential to develop state-of-the-art programs for container inspection and enforcement.”

The Inspection Exercise was supported by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

The SESN participants will continue to collaborate in the future to detect and deter illegal shipments of hazardous waste through seaports.