Two International Agreements…

International agreements and principles underlie the way HCW should be managed. They should both be translated into national legislation as well as practical guidelines and codes of practice at HCF level.

This convention is a global agreement, ratified by some 178 member countries to address the problems and challenges posed by hazardous waste.

The Secretariat, based in Geneva (Switzerland) is administered by UNEP. It facilitates the implementation of the Convention and related agreements. It also provides assistance and guidelines on legal and technical issues and conducts training on the proper management of hazardous waste.

The key objectives of the Basel Convention are:

  • to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness;
  • to dispose of them as close to the source of generation as possible;
  • to reduce the movement of hazardous wastes.

A central goal of the Basel Convention is “environmentally sound management” (ESM), the aim of which is to protect human health and the environment by minimizing hazardous waste production whenever possible. ESM means addressing the issue through an “integrated life-cycle approach”, which involves strong controls from the generation of a hazardous waste to its storage, transport, treatment, reuse, recycling, recovery and final disposal.

HCRW is one of the categories of hazardous wastes covered by the Convention.

This Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife.  POPs circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel.  In implementing the Convention, Governments will take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

The countries that have signed these two conventions are listed in the ressources section under the country information chapter.

To learn more about these Conventions, download a short presentation.

… and four principles

This principle stipulates that any organisation that generates waste has a duty to dispose of the waste safely. Therefore it is the HCF that has ultimate responsibility for how waste is containerized, handled on-site and off-site and finally disposed of.

According to this principle all waste producers are legally and financially responsible for the safe handling and environmentally sound disposal of the waste they produce.

In case of an accidental pollution, the organisation is liable for the costs of cleaning it up. Therefore if pollution results from poor management of health-care waste then the HCF is responsible. However, if the pollution results because of poor standards at the treatment facility then the HCF is likely to be held jointly accountable for the pollution with the treatment facility. Likewise this could happen with the service provider.

The fact that the polluters should pay for the costs they impose on the environment, is seen as an efficient incentive to produce less and segregate well.

Following this principle one must always assume that waste is hazardous until shown to be safe. This means that where it is unknown what the hazard may be, it is important to take all the necessary precautions.

This principle recommends that treatment and disposal of hazardous waste take place at the closest possible location to its source in order to minimize the risks involved in its transport.

According to a similar principle, any community should recycle or dispose of the waste it produces, inside its own territorial limits.