The Global Waste Trafficking and Its Correlates

Publication Date01 August 2020
AuthorSerena Favarin,Alberto Aziani
DOI10.1177/1043986220939701
Date01 August 2020
SubjectArticles
https://doi.org/10.1177/1043986220939701
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2020, Vol. 36(3) 351 –383
© The Author(s) 2020
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986220939701
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Article
The Global Waste Trafficking
and Its Correlates
Serena Favarin1 and Alberto Aziani1
Abstract
Our understanding of illicit waste trafficking (IWT) is in its embryonic stages; most
notably, the transnational nature of this phenomenon has hitherto been neglected
in extant empirical research. This study provides the first analysis of the possible
coorrelates of transnational IWT at a global level. Through recourse to information
extracted from the official Basel Convention National Reports, we constructed a
network of the most relevant IWT connections between 148 countries. Next, we
quantitatively investigated the role of specific potential factors that influence the
structure of this transnational network. Our results indicate that illicit waste is
trafficked toward poorer and more insecure countries, primarily via former colonial
connections. As such, IWT poses a direct threat to the sustainable development
of these countries. Mere adherence to international treaties and promulgation of
environmental laws does not in and of themselves explain whether a country is
part of the global IWT network, although the establishment of dedicated courts
and tribunals does reduce the risk of being a recipient of trafficked waste. Solid
anticorruption measures and a strong rule of law increased the likelihood of being a
source country in the IWT network, which, in turn, calls for a more global approach
to the management of environmental issues.
Keywords
transnational crime, trafficking network, environmental crime, logistic regressions,
IWT, waste crimes
Introduction
Illegal waste activities can be broadly defined as “any movement of waste which is not
in accordance with environmental regulations” (Tompson & Chainey, 2011, p. 180).
1Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Transcrime, Milan, Italy
Corresponding Author:
Serena Favarin, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Transcrime, Milan 20123, Italy.
Email: Serena.Favarin@unicatt.it
939701CCJXXX10.1177/1043986220939701Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeFavarin and Aziani
research-article2020
352 Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 36(3)
These activities include illegal trafficking, which can occur both domestically and
internationally (Calderoni et al., 2014; Liddick, 2010; Tompson & Chainey, 2011). At
a domestic level, waste can be moved from one region to another (Massari & Monzini,
2004). At an international level, waste is usually trafficked from developed to develop-
ing countries where regulation is lax and waste can be sold as fraudulent secondary-
raw material (Bisschop, 2012; Rucevska et al., 2015). Although difficult to map, the
most likely trade flows are from the global North (the European Union, Japan, the
United States, and Australia) to the global South (Africa, Asia, and South America)
(Elliott & Schaedla, 2016; Klenovšek & Meško, 2011).
Within this spectrum of crimes, cross-border illicit waste trafficking (IWT) can be
classified as a form of transnational environmental crime, which involves the illegal
trade, shipping, and processing of waste by a broad range of actors (Elliott, 2012; R.
White, 2011).1 For example, it can involve entrepreneurs in the legitimate economy
who decide to turn to the black market, or, alternatively, organized crime groups oper-
ating in the waste sector who are seeking to reduce costs (e.g., avoiding the treatment
costs) and generate further profit (e.g., illegally reselling the waste) by avoiding the
duties associated with the correct and environmentally sound treatment of waste.
Offenders smuggle, either directly or via the help of intermediaries, their waste through
false declarations and documentation, concealment, and other illicit methods that del-
eteriously affect the environment, as well as jeopardizing human health, and weaken-
ing countries’ legitimate economies (Andreatta & Favarin, 2020; Morganti et al.,
2020; Sahramäki et al., 2017). Both academics and international organizations have
recognized the threat posed by IWT, along with highlighting the importance of study-
ing its transnational dimension (Elliott & Schaedla, 2016; United Nation Office on
Drugs and Crime, 2009). However, empirical research on waste crimes has thus far
predominantly considered the national dimension of IWT. Indeed, despite the growing
scientific interest in IWT as a transnational form of crime, the topic remains largely
unexplored, especially from an empirical perspective.
One of the principal obstacles to conducting empirical research on IWT is the
dearth—and poor quality—of publicly available data on waste crimes, illegal waste
shipments, the prices that are charged on the illegal market as well as on the licit
waste market (e.g., production, treatment, import, and export). Many authors and
institutions have noted this problem and stressed the need to improve both data col-
lection and data availability within the field of environmental crime to aid future
research (Bisschop, 2012; Gibbs & Simpson, 2009; Greife & Maume, 2020; Stassen
& Ceccato, 2020). However, more recently, Nobles (2019) has argued that this afore-
said point about the lack of suitable data sets has been overstated, and that in fact
there are a variety of secondary data readily accessible through which to investigate
many aspects of different justice systems’ responses to environmental crimes. While
this is indeed true with respect to the United States, it is not necessarily the case in
other countries across the world (Andreatta & Favarin, 2020; Stassen & Ceccato,
2020). Both Lynch et al. (2017) and Lynch and Pires (2019) have recently lamented
the scarce attention that has been directed toward quantitative analyses of relevant
environmental crimes. The nonquantitative tendencies within green criminology, in
Favarin and Aziani 353
particular, have limited the generalizability of many of these studies, and distanced
green criminology from “orthodox criminology,” which, in turn, has weakened the
debates on environmental crimes within the criminological community.2
Since 2016, the Basel Convention National Reports (BCNRs) include detailed
information on single cases of IWT by each of the countries that are parties to the
Convention. These data are a unique source of information through which to study
IWT and its characteristics at a transnational level. The present study systematized
the data pertaining to the 2016 and 2017 reported cases of IWT to reconstruct a net-
work of connections among the countries that illegally exchange waste. Subsequent
to this, the study proceeded to analytically investigate the correlates of this global
IWT network.
Background Studies
There is an emergent scientific interest in waste crimes; this interest is strictly con-
nected to a nascent awareness of environmental crimes and their manifold deleteri-
ous consequences at a global level (Klenovšek & Meško, 2011). Despite this, the
extant empirical research on waste crimes has predominantly focused on the domes-
tic dimension of these aforesaid crime types. Both quantitative and qualitative stud-
ies that analyze the illegal management, disposal, and dumping of waste have been
mainly conducted at a national or subnational level (Almer & Goeschl, 2015; Biotto
et al., 2009; Crofts et al., 2010; D’Amato et al., 2018; Dorn et al., 2007; Ichinose &
Yamamoto, 2011; Kim et al., 2008; Liu et al., 2017; Matos et al., 2012; Sahramäki
& Kankaanranta, 2017; Sigman, 1998). Fewer studies have investigated the dynam-
ics and determinants of within-border IWT (Germani et al., 2015, 2017; Massari &
Monzini, 2004).
However, there is a relative dearth of studies that have empirically investigated the
transnational dimension of IWT. Bisschop (2012) examined the transnational traffick-
ing of electronic waste from the port of Antwerp, in Belgium, to third countries, pri-
marily in Africa and Asia. The research disclosed information pertaining to the various
actors involved and their roles as well as the push, pull, and facilitating factors that
motivated people to illegally transport e-waste from Belgium to distant countries. The
study was based on a document analysis of various primary and secondary sources, as
well as interviews with key informants and field research (e.g., in the port of Antwerp
[Belgium], port of Tema [Ghana], Agbogbloshie dumpsite [Ghana]). The results of the
study showed how the actors (e.g., waste collectors, waste transporters) involved in
the e-waste trafficking equally walked on a thin line between legal and illegal and how
push, pull, and facilitating factors on individual, organizational, and societal levels
together provided the motivations and opportunities for illegal transports of e-waste.
Sahramäki and colleagues (2017) analyzed actors, their modi operandi, and facili-
tating factors in 13 IWT cross-border cases from the Netherlands, Italy, and Finland to
third countries around the world. This comparative study highlighted the similarities
and differences between these countries through conducting a crime script analysis of
judicial files. The findings reveled that (a) offenders involved in cross-border IWT

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