Economic growth and globalization in the last decades have led to a worldwide increase of waste transports across borders, whether on the road, by railway or ship. These waste movements or "shipments" sometimes involve hazardous wastes and can create risks for human health and the environment. In other cases wastes are traded within the EU to replace natural resources in industrial facilities while applying high environmental standards.
The uncontrolled movement of toxic wastes from the Seveso incident to France in 1982, but also several cases where such wastes from Europe were exported and dumped in developing countries, showed the need for more supervision and control. Council Directive 84/631/EEC for the first time harmonized the control procedures for the shipment of hazardous waste in the Community. On the international level, the Basel Convention of 1989 established worldwide notification requirements for the movement of hazardous waste and obliged the parties to minimize the generation of such waste and to ensure its environmentally sound management. The European Community transposed the Convention by Council Regulation (EEC) No 259/93 (the Waste Shipment Regulation) and as from 1998 prohibited the export of hazardous wastes to non-OECD countries altogether.
Different regimes apply to shipments of wastes for disposal and for recovery, as well as to hazardous and "green-listed" non-hazardous wastes, and to some special categories in-between. The shipment of hazardous wastes and of wastes destined for disposal is generally subject to notification procedures with the prior consent of all relevant authorities of dispatch, transit and destination, while green-listed wastes, as a rule, may be shipped for recovery within the OECD like normal commercial goods and only accompanied by certain information. The shipment of non-hazardous wastes to non-OECD countries depends essentially on whether the importing country accepts them and which procedures it wants to apply.
Regulation No 259/93 has been replaced in July 2007 by the new Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 on shipments of waste, which streamlines the existing control procedures, incorporates recent changes of international law and strengthens the provisions on enforcement and cooperation between Member States in case of illegal shipments.