Waste trafficking has severe implications for the environment and human health due to improper waste management. There are economic impacts through the diversion of resources, such as tax revenue, as well as having an adverse effect on trade and competition, putting law-abiding businesses at an economic disadvantage.
The complexity of waste related regulations, often in combination with few resources for monitoring, inspection and enforcement, result in low risks for criminals, while the illicit profits they stand to make in this sector are high. Varying legal definitions of what amounts to waste or hazardous waste, among others, continue to lead to different interpretations of regulations, which in turn impact their enforcement. Unclear standards on contamination levels and on the definition of environmentally sound management further complicate the understanding - and thus application - of waste regulations. If left unaddressed, this uncertainty will continue to create ample opportunities for companies, individuals or organized criminal groups to conduct illicit business.
The commitment of the international community to prevent and combat crimes that affect the environment, including “illicit trafficking in […] hazardous waste and other wastes” was reaffirmed in the “Kyoto declaration on advancing crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law: towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted at the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Kyoto, Japan in March 2021.
Clear and effective legal provisions and requirements are critical to the success of any compliance and enforcement programme. UNODC provides assistance to Member States to adopt, strengthen and review national legislation with a view to effectively addressing crimes that affect the environment and develops guidance to assist Member States in these endeavours.
The Environment Team is collaborating with UNODC’s Organized Crime Branch to develop a Legislative Guide on Waste Trafficking to support States in enacting or strengthening domestic legislation to prevent and combat waste trafficking. The Guide is a tool for Member States to amend or adopt legislation to better address the challenges posed by waste trafficking. It includes model provisions and guidance, which States can adapt to fit local conditions, constitutional principles, legal culture and structures, as well as existing enforcement arrangements. This practical tool enables countries to draw from existing international agreements and instruments whilst considering national circumstances and policies as well as the composition and structure of national sectors. The tool is intended for legislators, policy makers, prosecutors and the law enforcement community. The Guide will be published in 2022.
A new initiative - Unwaste: tackling waste trafficking to support a circular economy – has recently been launched and will be implemented through the Regional Programme in South East Asia. This project will fight trafficking in waste between the EU and South East Asia by promoting enhanced EU-ASEAN Member States partnerships, in support of ongoing efforts towards a circular economy transition, and in line with the relevant policy frameworks in the EU and partner countries.