Earlier this week, the Financial Times ran a story about a conspiracy between governments, Italian mafia, and industrialists to illegally dump ships containing hazardous waste into the Mediterranean Sea. It fails to mention the Basel Convention, which banned trade in “hazardous waste” between developed and developing nations. Because of this law, developed nations cannot send such ships or cargo to developing nations where it could be recycled. Greenpeace and similar groups pushed the Convention because they seem to think that any trade involving recycling of waste is always harmful. The reality is, such trade often creates opportunities that would lift communities out of far worse occupations or utter poverty. As noted in an earlier post, developing nations need trade—even in waste industries—to raise living standards. And as this case shows, the Convention has not stopped illegal dumping of waste; it now encourages it. While the U.S. has not ratified the Convention, we have our own misguided policies limiting options for disposal of military ships, hundreds of which now sit in ports and locations around the nation waiting for some legal disposal option to be found.
India’s Liberty Institute did a paper on the Basel Convention in the past, predicting that such restrictions would do more harm than good. Check it out.
Image source: U.S. Maritime Administration, Office of Ship Operations, Ship Disposal Program Webpage.