Environmental crime is a big and increasingly lucrative business – a multi-billion dollar global enterprise. Local and international crime syndicates worldwide earn an estimated US$ 22-31 billion dollars annually from hazardous waste dumping, smuggling proscribed hazardous materials, and exploiting and trafficking protected natural resources. Illegal international trade in commodities such as ozone depleting substances (ODSs), toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes and endangered species is an international problem with serious consequences. It directly threatens human health and the environment, contributes to species loss, and results in revenue loss for governments. Illegal trade in environmentally-sensitive commodities strengthens criminal organizations that also traffic in drugs, weapons and prostitution. It also seriously undermines the effectiveness of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) by circumventing rules and procedures agreed in international treaties.
National and international regimes for integrated chemical management rely on customs to monitor and control flows of regulated chemicals at borders. International agreements related to chemical management often restrict the national supply and demand of specific chemicals, and some set incentives for phaseout of the most harmful substances. If illegal trade in these chemicals occurs, the incentives set by the MEAs for control and phaseout of chemicals are considerably weakened. National customs authorities need to have the capacity to monitor the chemicals covered by MEAs.
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