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Basel Action Network: Argentina's new waste decree is illegal

Christian Fernsby |
On 26 August, Argentinian president Mauricio Macri signed decree 591/2019, reclassifying what are considered wastes and what are considered commodities in the context of international trade (transboundary movements).

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According to local and international environmental and social organizations, the new waste decree is illegal under international law and places its environment, health, and recycling jobs at risk.

The groups called for the decree's repeal.

The Basel Action Network (BAN) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) joined the Anti-Incineration Citizens Coalition of Argentina, Greenpeace Argentina and the Argentinian Federation of Waste Pickers (FACCyR) in expressing surprise and alarm over the decree as it violates Argentina's legal obligations to uphold waste definitions established in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention), the international treaty that regulates global waste flows.

The Basel Convention defines wastes in a manner that includes materials destined for "recovery" operations, which include recycling, but also "waste-to-energy" incineration and co-incineration in cement kilns.

These operations can lead to significant pollution, and thus the Basel Convention requires parties to control them as wastes.

Decree 591 limits the definition of waste dramatically, allowing many wastes destined for recycling or incineration to escape control.

The Basel Convention does not allow countries that are party to it to unilaterally reduce the scope of the treaty by new national definitions or other means.

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