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Around 180 countries agree to make global plastic scrap trade more transparent and better regulated

Governments agree landmark decisions to protect people and planet from hazardous chemicals and waste, including plastic scrap

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May 12 2019
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Decisions on plastic scrap were reached in Geneva as approximately 180 governments adopted a raft of decisions aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals and waste, including plastic waste, at the meetings of the Conferences of Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions (Triple COPs). Pollution from plastic waste has been acknowledged as a major environmental problem of global concern with reports indicating that 80-90 percent of an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic found in the oceans comes from land-based sources.

Governments amended the Basel Convention to include plastic scrap in a legally-binding framework which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment. A new Partnership on Plastic Waste was also established to mobilise business, government, academic and civil society resources, interests and expertise to assist in implementing the new measures, to provide practical support – including tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance – for this agreement, as per the press release.  Other far-reaching decisions included the elimination of two toxic chemical groups, which together total about 4,000 chemicals, listed into Annex A of the Stockholm Convention, namely Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and its salts and PFOA-related compounds.

Important progress was also made under the Rotterdam Convention, which provides a legally-binding framework for information exchange and informed decision-making in the trade of certain hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals. “I’m proud that this week in Geneva, Parties to the Basel Convention have reached agreement on a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste. Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, and the fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high,” said Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary (UNEP) of the three conventions, in a statement.

Recycling Industry responds


“Basel Convention ignores fact that recycling works to help environment”

In the Recycling industry’s view, the amendments to the Convention adopted by the Basel Convention Conference of Parties will impair the trade of recyclable plastics. This effort, intended to be an international response to plastic pollution in marine environments, in reality will hamper the world’s ability to recycle plastic material, creating an increased risk of pollution. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) released the following statement in response: “Recycling is part of the solution to the global issue of plastic pollution. In fact, the amendment does not restrict trade in scrap plastic commodities that meet the ISRI Specifications. However, as written, the new listings for controlled plastics, and the requirement that exporters file ‘prior informed consent’ requests, will create an administrative burden that will make it harder for countries without recycling capacity to export collected plastics to countries with the infrastructure in place. It also does little to fight the illicit trade and poor handling of end-of-life plastics that are the real cause of pollution around the world. “The Conference of Parties also adopted Terms of Reference for a new Partnership on Plastic Waste, and ISRI intends to be an active participant in that partnership. Recycling works, and ISRI will share its expertise with the international community to demonstrate that recycling plastics in a responsible manner helps save the environment. Recycling that incorporates the highest standards in environmental, health, safety, and quality directs these valuable resources into the manufacturing supply chain, thereby generating both economic and environmental opportunities.”