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29 April 2020

On 1 April 2020, the provisions of the Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) (Amendment) Act 2020 (“Amendment Act”) aimed at improving the administration and enforcement of the Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) Act (“HWA”) came into force. This follows the passing of the Amendment Act in Parliament on 3 February 2020.

The Amendment Act also introduces controls on plastic waste. This is in compliance with Singapore’s obligations under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (“Basel Convention”). The Basel Convention was amended in 2019 to expand the scope of the Convention to cover certain categories of plastic waste. Provisions amending the Schedule to the HWA to include the categories of plastic waste covered by the amendments to the Basel Convention will come into operation on 1 October 2020 while the amendments to the Basel Convention are expected to take effect on 1 January 2021.

Amendments to facilitate administration and enforcement

The Amendment Act has amended the HWA to facilitate its administration and enforcement in the following ways:

  • Director-General of Environmental Protection to be responsible for administration of HWA: Prior to 1 April 2020, the HWA was administered by the Director of Hazardous Waste, as appointed by the Minister for Environment and Water Resources. The HWA has been amended to make the Director-General of Environmental Protection, appointed under the Environmental Protection and Management Act (“EPMA”), responsible for the administration of the HWA instead. Consequential amendments to the Second Schedule of the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 will take effect on a date to be appointed.
  • Minister to notify in Gazette national definitions of hazardous and other waste: The Basel Convention allows parties to lodge with its Secretariat the parties’ national definitions of “hazardous waste” and “other waste” beyond the scope of the Convention. The HWA had previously provided for the Minister, through notification in the Gazette, to extend the definition of “hazardous waste” or “other waste” in the Act to include these national definitions. The amendments have added a new provision to the HWA to extend these definitions to include all the latest national definitions lodged by parties to the Basel Convention and published on the Basel Convention website.
  • Expansion of NEA’s enforcement powers to cover vehicles going through land checkpoints: The HWA provides the National Environment Agency (“NEA”) with the power to control the movement of vessels or aircrafts if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that such a vessel or aircraft is carrying hazardous or other waste that is to be exported from, imported into or transited through Singapore. The amendments have expanded NEA’s enforcement powers to cover vehicles suspected to be carrying hazardous or other waste into or out of Singapore via land checkpoints.

Amendments to introduce controls on plastic waste

The Basel Convention controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste via the Prior Informed Consent (“PIC”) procedure in recognition of legitimate transboundary movements of hazardous waste, such as recycling or disposal. The Basel Convention also imposes the PIC procedure on some non-hazardous waste streams such as household wastes or residue arising from the incineration of household wastes. Under the PIC procedure, exporting states wishing to export any waste stream covered by the Basel Convention have to obtain prior consent from the countries receiving the waste, as well as the countries through which the waste transits.

The amendments to the Basel Convention will expand Annex II of the Basel Convention to include certain categories of plastic waste which could impact the environment if not managed properly, such as mixed plastic waste. The Amendment Act has amended the HWA to define “other waste” to mean waste belonging to any category under Annex II to the Basel Convention. Amendments to the Schedule to the HWA to include the categories of plastic waste covered by the amendments to the Basel Convention will come into operation on 1 October 2020.

Reference materials

The following materials are available from the Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg and Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources website www.mewr.gov.sg: 

 

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