The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal  controls the international trade in hazardous wastes and certain other wastes. The Convention, which was adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992, establishes a “notice and consent” regime — also known as prior informed consent (PIC) — for the export of hazardous and certain other waste to importing countries. Under the Convention’s provisions, trade in such wastes generally cannot take place:

  • without the importing country’s written consent; or
  • when the exporting country has reason to believe that the particular wastes will not be handled in an environmentally sound manner.

Currently, there are 188 Parties to the Convention. The United States signed the Basel Convention in 1990. The U.S. Senate provided its advice and consent to ratification in 1992. The United States, however, has not ratified the Convention because it does not have sufficient domestic statutory authority to implement all of its provisions.

Plastic Waste Amendments

In 2019, Parties to the Basel Convention adopted amendments  to Annexes II, VIII, and IX that will subject the majority of exports of plastic waste and scrap to the Convention’s PIC requirement starting January 1, 2021.  The Convention’s non-party trade restrictions prohibit Parties from trading in covered waste and scrap subject to PIC with non-Parties, except under the terms of an agreement or arrangement provided for by Article 11 of the Convention.

Article 11 Arrangements and Agreements

Article 11 of the Basel Convention provides that, notwithstanding the Convention’s non-Party trade restriction, Parties may enter into agreements or arrangements allowing transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other wastes with Parties or non-Parties, provided that such agreements or arrangements (1) do not derogate from the Convention’s requirements for environmentally sound management and (2) stipulate provisions which are not less environmentally sound than those provided for by the Convention.  Such Article 11 agreements or arrangements enable Basel Parties to trade in waste and scrap covered by the Convention’s PIC procedures with non-Parties (like the United States)  The United States has entered into several such agreements or arrangements, as described below.

OECD Council Decision

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Council Decision on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Wastes Destined for Recovery Operations  serves as an Article 11 agreement that enables the United States to trade certain Basel Convention covered wastes with other OECD countries.  Wastes subject to the OECD Control System are listed in Appendices 3 (the Green List) and 4 (the Amber List) of the OECD Council Decision and are incorporated by reference in 40 CFR Part 262, Subpart H; the Appendices partially mirror the Basel Convention Annexes.

Bilateral Article 11 Agreements and Arrangements between the United States and other Countries:

Canada – The 1986 Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada Concerning the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and Other Waste, as amended in 1992, addresses the transboundary shipment of hazardous waste and municipal solid waste between the two countries. The bilateral agreement, among other goals, seeks to provide both countries with safe, low cost options for managing waste for which there is a lack of either domestic capacity or technology to appropriately manage the waste.

The 2020 Arrangement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada Concerning the Environmentally Sound Management of Non-Hazardous Waste and Scrap Subject to Transboundary Movement [395 KB] addresses bilateral trade in non-hazardous waste and scrap, including non-hazardous plastic waste and scrap, while affirming the environmentally sound management in each country of non-hazardous waste and scrap that is subject to transboundary movement between the two countries.

Mexico – The 1986 Agreement of Cooperation Between the United States of America and the United Mexican States Regarding the Transboundary Shipments of Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Substances (concluded as Annex III to the Agreement Between the United States of America and the United Mexican States on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment in the Border Area), as amended, addresses the transboundary shipment of hazardous wastes and hazardous between the two countries.

Costa Rica, Malaysia and the Philippines also have Article 11 agreements with the United States. These agreements address the import of hazardous waste from those countries into the United States, but not export from the United States to those countries.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future