Unwaste project

1 year ago Ruediger Kuehr Comments Off on Unwaste project


Illegal trade in waste (or waste trafficking) is a type crime that affects the environment and is a growing problem across the world. Once it reaches destination countries, illegal waste often ends up in illegal landfills and illegal storage sites or is burnt in the open, causing harm to the environment and human health, undermining the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the transition toward a circular economy.

Illegal waste flows are often hidden behind controlled or legal transboundary movements. The boundaries between the licit and illicit activities in the trafficking of waste can be thin, and the activities, actors and modus operandi involved often overlap and fuel each other.

Mapping of waste flows, better knowledge of the modus operandi of waste trafficking networks as well as national, regional, and inter-regional cooperation are essential in tackling waste trafficking.


Since 2018, countries in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam have become the top regional destinations for the inflow of both legal and illegal waste. Despite existing national and international legal frameworks, the existence of waste trade bans, and the restrictions put in place by regional governments in recent years, problematic waste is still reaching these countries.


Unwaste project aims to fight trafficking in waste between the EU and Southeast Asia by promoting enhanced EU-ASEAN Member States partnerships, in support of ongoing efforts towards a circular economy transition, in line with the relevant policy frameworks.

The project objectives are:

  1. To better understand waste flows between Europe and Southeast Asia, with an additional focus on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on medical and hazardous waste movements.
  2. To promote cooperation through national dialogues to combat illicit movements of waste from the EU towards Southeast Asia.
  3. To facilitate intra- and inter-regional dialogues at the policy level to promote partnership between the EU and Southeast Asian countries, in support of the circular economy approach.

This project is coordinated by UNODC and implemented by UNITAR SCYCLE in co-operation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).The project is funded by the European Union.

Sign up here to join the Waste Enforcement Asia Community, a web platform aimed to foster collaboration among waste trade practitioners. It gathers professionals from regulatory, enforcement and judiciary bodies, academics and international organizations working on waste trade and waste trafficking.


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