Hazardous Waste and related Convention – UPSC IAS

In this article, You will read Hazardous Waste and related Convention: Stockholm Convention, Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention – for UPSC IAS.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous wastes are those that may contain toxic substances generated from industrial, hospital, some types of household wastes.

These wastes could be corrosive, inflammable, explosive, or react when exposed to other materials.

Any substance that is present in the environment or released into the environment causing substantial damage to public health and welfare of the environment is called a hazardous substance.

Hazardous wastes may be found in different physical states such as gaseous, liquids, or solids.

The international community has defined the responsible management of hazardous waste and chemicals as an important part of developing a sustainable economy with Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Disposal of hazardous waste
  • Recycling
  • Portland cement
  • Incineration, destruction, and waste-to-energy
  • Hazardous waste landfill (sequestering, isolation, etc.)
  • Pyrolysis

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
  • It was opened for signature in 2001 in Stockholm (Sweden) and became effective in 2004.
  • Aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
  • POPs are defined as “chemical substances that persist in the environmentbioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment”.
  • POPs are listed in various Annexes to the Stockholm Convention after thorough scientific research, deliberations, and negotiations among member countries.
    • Annex A (Elimination): Parties must take measures to eliminate the production and use of the chemicals listed under Annex A. Specific exemptions for use or production are listed in the Annex and apply only to Parties that register for them. PCBs are listed in Annex A
    • Annex B (Restriction): Parties must take measures to restrict the production and use of the chemicals listed under Annex B in light of any applicable acceptable purposes and/or specific exemptions listed in the Annex.
    • Annex C (Unintentional production): Parties must take measures to reduce the unintentional releases of chemicals listed under Annex C with the goal of continuing minimization and, where feasible, ultimate elimination.
  • Objectives:
    • Support the transition to safer alternatives.
    • Target additional POPs for action.
    • Cleanup old stockpiles and equipment containing POPs.
    • Work together for a POPs-free future.
  • India ratified the Stockholm Convention in 2006 as per Article 25(4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default “opt-out” position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/ acceptance/ approval or accession is explicitly deposited with UN depositary.
  • The convention calls to ban nine of the dirty dozen chemicals (key POPs), limit the use of DDT to malaria control, and curtail inadvertent production of dioxins and furans. The convention listed twelve distinct chemicals in three categories:
    • Eight pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, and toxaphene)
    • Two industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls and hexachlorobenzene)
    • Two unintended by-products of many industrial processes involving chlorine such as waste incineration, chemical, and pesticide manufacturing, and pulp and paper bleaching (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, commonly referred to as dioxins and furans).
Important Listed substances
  • Aldrin: Used as an insecticide
  • Heptachlor: Uses as a termiticide (including in the structure of houses and underground), for organic treatment and in underground cable boxes
  • Hexachlorobenzene: Use as a chemical intermediate and a solvent for pesticides
  • Endrin: Endrin has been used primarily as an agricultural insecticide on tobacco, apple trees, cotton, sugar cane, rice, cereal, and grains.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyl: PCB’s commercial utility was based largely on their chemical stability, including low flammability, and physical properties, including electrical insulating properties. They are highly toxic.
  • DDT: DDT is the best-known of several chlorine-containing pesticides used in the 1940s and 1950s.

Basel Convention

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
  • An international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations.
  • Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it.
  • Number of Parties: 188
  • Main goal is to prevent the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
  • It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.
  • The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management, and to assist LDCs in the environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.

Rotterdam Convention

  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
  • The Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure.
  • Multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to the importation of hazardous chemicals.
  • The convention promotes an open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, safe handling, and inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.
  • Signatory nations can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed in the treaty.

Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure

  • It is one of the main provisions of the Rotterdam Convention of 1998 that states that parties that are importing the chemicals as listed in Annex III of the Convention have to formally obtain and disseminate the decision of receiving future shipments of such chemicals.
  • The importing pirates have to ensure that decisions related to their imports are well in compliance by the exporting parties.
  • There are 52 chemicals listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention for the trade of which parties have to follow the mechanism of Prior Informed Consent Procedure.

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