Tenth Anniversary of IMO Waste Dumping Treaty


By MarEx 2016-03-24 17:55:49

The 1996 "London Protocol" covering the dumping of wastes at sea entered into force ten years ago on March 24. The Protocol modernized the original “London Convention” dumping treaty, bringing in a so-called “precautionary approach” that heralded a new era of prohibition of all dumping at sea with the exception of wastes commonly agreed by Governments and then put on an approved list. 

Under the Protocol, all dumping is prohibited, except for possibly acceptable wastes on the so-called "reverse list". This list includes the following:
1. dredged material;
2. sewage sludge;
3. fish wastes;
4. vessels and platforms;
5. inert, inorganic geological material (e.g., mining wastes);
6. organic material of natural origin;
7. bulky items primarily comprising iron, steel and concrete; and
8. carbon dioxide streams from carbon dioxide capture processes for sequestration.

Notably, those party to the Protocol adopted amendments in 2006 and 2009 to allow carbon storage and capture in some seabed geological formations – with the aim of mitigating the impacts of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to ensure that new technologies with the potential to cause harm to the marine environment are effectively controlled and regulated.

The London Convention and its Protocol has achieved:

1. The unregulated dumping and incineration activities that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s have been halted. Parties to the Convention agreed to control dumping by implementing regulatory programmes to assess the need for, and the potential impact of, dumping. They eliminated dumping of certain types of waste and, gradually, made this regime more restrictive by promoting sound waste management and pollution prevention. Prohibitions are in force for dumping of industrial and radioactive wastes, as well as for incineration at sea of industrial waste and sewage sludge. As mentioned earlier, under the Protocol all dumping is now prohibited, except for the so-called "reverse list".

2. "Generic Guidelines" and comprehensive "Specific Guidelines" have been developed for all wastes on the reverse list. These Guidelines contain step-by-step procedures to evaluate wastes being considered for sea disposal, including waste prevention audits, assessment of alternatives, waste characterization, assessment of potential adverse environmental effects of dumping, disposal site selection and monitoring and licensing procedures. Training materials are available to promote and assist with the application of these guidelines.

3. Guidance on the national implementation of the London Protocol has been developed providing an outline of the types of action, which States should consider taking at the national level.

4. Guidelines have also been developed for the sampling and analysis of dredged material intended for disposal at sea. These provide considerations and good practices for developing sampling plans in an effort to help users decide how to organize and prioritize their sampling activities to suit their particular goals, experience, budget and technical capabilities. To assist those Parties with limited capacity or resources, advice on the application of low-technology techniques for assessing dredged material has been developed.

Marine Litter Online Course

The Steering Committee of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter has been meeting in London (March 22-23) at IMO Headquarters to coordinate and plan future work to further reduce and better manage marine litter. The global partnership gathers together international agencies, Governments, NGOs, academia, private sector, civil society and individuals. IMO is a co-lead for sea-based litter in the global partnership, contributing to the development of the first so-called Massive Open Online Course on marine litter.