Posts Tagged Export

Belgian Council of State highlights authorities’ duty of care in assessing BAT (Export of waste).

The Belgian Council of State (the highest administrative court) has annulled the Flemish waste agency’s export permit in the so-called ‘Slufter’ case, involving large quantities of toxic dredging spoil (for the aficionados: classified as EURAL 17 05 05*; ia with heavy doses of tributyltin – TBT) dredged from the port of Antwerp. The case made by applicants was that the waste would be disposed of in the port of Rotterdam’s ‘slufter’ by way of mere dumping, as opposed to processing ‘at home’ in the Flemish region.

At issue was Article 11 of the Waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006, which allows Member States of export to object to planned shipments of waste destined for disposal. Applicants’ case was that the Flemish waste agency – OVAM should have disallowed the shipment on the basis of the proximity and the self-sufficiency principles. OVAM however pointed out that even if in optimal circumstances, processing in Flanders could lead to higher rates of recovery of the waste, much of it would still simply have to be landfilled. Importantly, it preferred disposal in the Slufter on the basis that the logistics chain was much shorter: load up, transport, dump. As opposed to load up, transport to processing facility for partial recovery (involving three separate processes); load-up of the solid waste left; transport and dump.

The Council of State ruled at the end of May that this decision by OVAM, in particular the reliance of the extent of the logistics chain, lacks proper assessment of the Best Available Technologies for dredging spoil, hence leading to insufficient assessment of the proximity and self-sufficiency principles. The ruling is relevant also with a view to the remainder of the spoil that will continue to be dredged.

For easy of reference (for those wishing to locate copy of the ruling): case numbers are 238220 -238224 included).


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RERA: a weee chance of US Basel ratification?

Many thanks to Gideon Kracov for pointing this out to me: the proposed Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (a private member’s Bill) would install an EU-type regime on the export of electric and electronic waste outside of the US. The US have signed but not  ratified the Basel Convention : RERA would amount to implementation of the Convention in practice. The Bill also recognises the relevance of recovering the many rare earth materials contained in WEEE.

Here’s the blurb (the official summary of the Bill, in fact):


Introduced in House (07/23/2013)

Responsible Electronics Recycling Act – Amends the Solid Waste Disposal Act to: (1) prohibit the export of restricted electronic waste to countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the European Union (EU), or Liechtenstein; (2) require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and promulgate procedures for identifying certain electronic equipment as well as additional restricted toxic materials contained in such equipment which poses a potential hazard to human health or the environment; and (3) establish criminal penalties for knowingly exporting restricted electronic waste in violation of this Act. Allows certain exceptions to such export ban.

Defines “restricted electronic waste” to include electronic equipment (excluding parts of a motor vehicle), such as computers, televisions, printers, copiers, video game systems, telephones, and similar used electronic products, that contain cathode ray tubes, batteries, switches, and other parts containing lead, cadmium, mercury, organic solvents, hexavalent chromium, beryllium, or other toxic ingredients.

Requires persons who handle restricted electronic wastes to permit appropriate EPA and state officials access to such wastes upon request.

Directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a competitive research application program to provide grants for research in the recovering and recycling of critical minerals and rare earth elements found in electronic devices.



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Let them stop eating pollution – The European ban on beaching of EU ships

When teaching International Environmental Law, I tend to at some point in the proceedings have the students ponder Lawrence Summers’ 1992 ‘Let them eat pollution‘ memo. It is a document most wonderful to teach basic economics, internalisation (or lack thereof) of externalities, morality in international trade, comparative advantage etc etc. As well as some history (remember Marie Antoinette, anyone?) and the myths surrounding quotes (qu’ils mangent de la brioche).

The EU have recently decided no longer to let developing countries recycle EU-registered ships through ‘beaching’: basically, one towes a discarded ship, typically with plenty of toxic substances on board or integrated in the ship’s build, unto a beach in a developing country, where subsequently the ship is dismantled without much regard to environmental control of occupational health and safety issues.

The long struggle to regulate the trade is a good example of the challenges of positive harmonisation in international environmental law. For instance, the definition of ‘waste’ as applied to a disused ship long differed between the EU (waste as soon as it is no longer used for its original purpose), the International maritime organisation (no waste as long as it can float) and the Basel Convention (reference to ‘discard’ and to national law). The 2009 Hong Kong Convention aims to address the challenges. This Convention has now been implemented by the EU, who have reportedly ‘gold plated’ it: i.e. the EU have gone beyond what is required under the Convention.

Some details of the scheme may be found here (Irish Presidency of the EU) – the text itself is not yet available. The regime uses a core element of the regime of the Basel Convention on the transboundary shipments of hazardous wastes and their disposal: i.e. employ export authorities in the ‘developed’ world, to only allow exports to ‘developing’ countries when conditions in the latter are deemed sufficiently safe from the workers’ and the environment’s point of view. In the case of the ship recycling regime, this is done by only allowing export of EU-flagged waste ships if they are to be dismantled in facilities that have been approved by the EU.

Plenty of complications remain: this includes the compatibility of the regime with the Basel Convention, and with international trade law; the problem of enforcement and inspection; and the possibility of circumvention by switching flag state.

Geert. Postscript July 2014: the Regulation was eventually adopted as Regulation 1257/2013.

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Corporate Social Resonsibility used as stick and carrot – Court Amsterdam

End 2011, the Gerechtshof Amsterdam issued a further ruling in the long-running Trafigura case (exports of wastes, Ivory coast). I am restricted from commenting on the waste law merits of the case however it is interesting to note that the court employed CSR both as carrot and stick in determining punishment. As a stick: companies with a level of sophistication as Trafigura ought to organise themselves to be aware of the legal implications of their production process. As a carrot: the foundation created by the company supports global CSR projects, which merits a certain amount of leniency. As far as I am aware, this was the first time that CSR was used in such specific manner in court.


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