The 13th meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG-13) of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal agreed on strategic, legal, and technical matters for consideration by the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the Basel Convention in May 2023. Delegates revised the draft update of the technical guidelines on environmentally sound management (ESM) of plastic wastes, and asked for another round of comments before COP 16, including to address a proposal to develop technical guidelines on ESM of rubber wastes and waste parings and rubber scrap.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting notes that OEWG-13 had a heavy agenda during its three-day meeting. On strategic matters, the OEWG forwarded revised findings and recommendations to improve the strategic framework for implementing the Convention. It recommended that the COP establish a small intersessional working group (SIWG) to identify challenges in implementing the Convention’s prior informed consent (PIC) procedure and develop recommendations to improve its functioning.

On legal matters, the OEWG also made progress on work that began several cycles ago to review and revise the Convention’s annexes, recognizing that some of these have not been adjusted in more than 30 years and may no longer adequately reflect current global trade and waste management realities.

On technical matters, delegates, inter alia:

  • reviewed and revised two updates of technical guidelines for COP 16 consideration on wastes containing, consisting of, or contaminated by persistent organic pollutants (POPs); and
  • reviewed the draft update of the 2003 technical guidelines on waste lead-acid batteries and requested the Secretariat to continue working to revise the draft guidelines, for consideration by COP 16.

In opening statements, the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) said work on the strategic framework should be aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs. 

The EU described momentum on the update of the plastic waste technical guidelines “as a strong signal” to the May 2023 session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

According to the ENB analysis of the meeting, a Secretariat proposal for further work on plastics, which may influence the INC process and determine what role the Basel Convention might play in the future plastics agreement, suggests creating an expert working group to develop tools on: preventing and minimizing plastic waste and its hazardous constituents, ESM of specific waste streams where plastic is relevant; technologies for recycling plastic wastes; illegal traffic in plastic waste; and financing the ESM of plastic waste. ENB notes that COP 16 will likely have to devote significant time to completing the revision of the update of the technical guidelines on ESM of plastic wastes, especially given the message it might send to the plastics INC.

OEWG-13 convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 21-23 February 2023. [ENB Coverage of OEWG-13]