In an article published on May 10, 2019, news provider Plastics News reported on the adoption of plastic waste into the Basel Convention, which will place stricter controls on transporting plastic waste across international borders. The changes require plastic waste to follow the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, which means that exporters of contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastics will need to get permission from the importing country in advance before transporting. Rolf Payet, executive secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, commented on the “close to 1 million people around the world [who] signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action [on plastic waste] here in Geneva,” and he sees this as “a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high.” Parties to the Convention are reported to see this as an improved tool to assist developing countries to manage and limit environmental contamination stemming from plastic waste.

However, industry bodies have voiced concerns about the changes. Industry association The World Plastics Council published a statement before the adoption arguing that strict rules could lead to reduced trade in higher value plastics such as PET or in the further development of advanced recycling technologies. The statement highlights concerns that “countries will have insufficient time to increase their domestic recycling infrastructure or improve their capacity to manage new and potentially diverse plastic waste streams” which could “exacerbate the many problems arising from inadequate municipal waste management infrastructure, and potentially result in an increase in plastic leakage to the environment.” It also notes that they “agree that an update of the waste listing for plastics under the Basel Convention could encourage investments in recycling to enable a more circular economy.” David Azoulay from the non-governmental organization Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) said that the decision “demonstrates that countries are finally catching up with the urgency and magnitude of the plastic pollution issue and shows what ambitious international leadership looks like.”

Read more

Plastics News (May 10, 2019). “UN adopts global treaty limiting plastic waste trade.”

UN Environment (May 12, 2019). “Governments agree landmark decisions to protect people and planet from hazardous chemicals and waste, including plastic waste.”

Plastics Europe (May 9, 2019). “WPC recommendation on the “Proposals to amend parts of the Basel Convention, considered at the 14th Conference of the Parties.”

National Geographic (May 10, 2019). “Shipping plastic waste to poor countries just got harder.

CIEL (May 10, 2019). “UN decides to control global plastic waste dumping.

Steve Toloken (May 15, 2019). “Basel a potential game changer in plastic scrap trade.” Plastics News

Ginger Hervey (May 16, 2019). “UN meeting adopts amendments to international conventions.Chemical Watch

Shahrzad Pourriahi (May 24, 2019). “FEAD calls for clarifications over Basel Convention changes.” Plastics News Europe