Should Basel Convention cover plastics waste? / Norway seeks amendment
With marine litter increasingly a topic for international discussion, Norway has proposed including plastics waste in the 1992 Basel Convention, a UN document that has the goal of limiting international trade in hazardous waste, especially between developed and developing countries. The proposal will be considered at the convention’s "Open-ended Working Group" meeting, scheduled for 3-6 September 2018 in Geneva / Switzerland. Currently, 185 countries and the EU are parties to the convention.

The Scandinavian nation wants to classify plastics waste as a third category under the convention’s Annex II, which covers “wastes requiring special consideration” – the two existing categories pertain to waste collected from households and residue from waste incineration. “We believe the proposed changes will lead to less marine plastic litter, increased traceability, more control and less illegal dumping of plastic waste,” the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment writes in an explanatory document. “By explicitly including plastic waste in the scope of the Basel Convention, these waste streams can be controlled, and mismanagement of plastic waste avoided,” it says.

At the same time, Norway would like to see “solid plastic waste” removed from Annex IX of the convention, as it says this classification is misused for scrap plastic loads that have had contaminants removed and are “prepared to a specification.” In shipping, it says, this is often used to disguise plastic wastes as “green” waste, and the removal of that category would provide more clarity on regulation of the material.

Up to now, the agreement officially known as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal – one of several such agreements that apply to plastics, along with other materials – has focused closely on international trade in hazardous (but not radioactive) waste. Its intention is also to minimise the volume and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure its environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation and to assist less developed countries in managing their own waste. More recently, the focus has been on electronic waste and the dismantling of ships.

Article 4 of the Basel Convention calls for an overall reduction of waste generation. Encouraging countries to keep wastes within their boundaries and as close as possible to its source of generation should provide incentives for waste reduction and pollution prevention, the thinking goes. Parties are generally prohibited from exporting covered wastes to or importing covered waste from non-parties to the convention.
20.08.2018 [240471-0]
Published on 20.08.2018

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