Plastic Waste included in Basel Convention

After 12 days of negotiations under the patronage of United Nations (UN) around 180 governments agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the movement and export of plastic waste between their national borders.

Key Highlights

  • Participants: About 1,400 representatives from almost every country in world met for 12 days of discussions at a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Agreement: Except the United States, about 180 governments, agreed to the deal which essentially updates (or amended) the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control Of Hazardous Wastes, to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework, in a move to quickly reduce amount of plastic being washed into world’s oceans.
  • Legally Binding: The framework for reducing plastic waste signed is legally binding which means that countries will have to monitor and track thousands of types of plastic waste outside their borders.
  • Cause of Concern: Some 8 million tonnes (MT) of plastic waste ends up in oceans each year. For far too long the practice of plastic waste dumping or exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries is being followed by developed countries like the US and Canada with claims that it would be recycled in receiving country. But since, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled it is instead dumped or burned, or lastly finds its way into the ocean.
  • Analysis: As per IPEN umbrella group (The International POPs Elimination Network, a global network of NGOs which seeks to eliminate hazardous and toxic chemicals and persistent organic pollutants) this new amendment to Basel Convention would empower developing countries to refuse plastic waste dumping.
  • Other Key Decisions taken: The recent Geneva meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups namely Dicofol (organochlorine pesticide) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (or PFOA, also known as C8, is a man-made chemical), and other related compounds. PFOA has wide variety of industrial and domestic applications like non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, and also as paints, carpets and paper.
  • Importance: The deal stroked sends a very strong political signal to rest of the world (including private sector, consumer market) that we need to take action.

About Basel convention

  • In 1989, the Conference of Plenipotentiaries (CoP) in Basel, Switzerland adopted The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
  • It was adopted in response to large public outcry after it was discovered that large deposits of toxic wastes were being imported from abroad into developing world.
  • The Basel Convention came into force in 1992.