E Environment

Most countries reach agreement to tackle and regulate plastic waste

Over 180 countries have agreed on a legally binding framework making the global trade in plastic waste more transparent and regulated, announced at a United Nations (UN) convention on Friday.

The framework aims to make sure the management of plastic waste is safer for human and environmental health.

Notably, the United States reportedly objected to the framework, however they are not part of the convention and so did not need to vote on it. Attendees of the meeting reported that the US argued against the change, suggesting that officials did not understand the repercussions.

The Basel Convention, an international agreement on the movement and disposal of hazardous and other wastes, was amended to include plastic waste in the framework.

A new Partnership on Plastic Waste was additionally established at the convention. The partnership was established to bring together business, government and societies expertise to aid the implementation of these new measures. They are hoping to provide tools, technical and financial support to the agreement. 

The convention will require countries to receive prior informed consent, before the exporting of plastic waste can take place. This will affect a broad array of industries, including healthcare, fashion, technology and hospitality.

Rolph Payet, part of the UN Environment Program, described the agreement as being “historic”. He said the amendment was “sending a very strong political signal to the rest of the world- to the private sector, to the consumer market- that we need to do something”.

Payet, the Executive Secretary of the Basel and two other conventions, also said: “Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues” and acknowledged the nearly 1 million signatures of a petition to amend the Basel Convention as “a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high.”

The amendment was proposed by Norway, with support of the EU, and presented in September. This time period has been considered very quick by traditional UN standards.

Von Hernandez, from Break Free from Plastic, described the deal as being a crucial step in the right direction “towards stopping the use of developing countries as a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste”.

Some have suggested this step towards tackling plastic waste does not go far enough.

Marco Lambertini, director of WWF International, supported the amendment but said “it only goes part of the way. What we- and the planet- need is a comprehensive treaty to tackle the global plastic crisis.”

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