Norwegian proposal to place trade controls on waste plastics gains support

A Norwegian proposal to add plastic waste to the list of wastes subject to controls under the Basel Convention has gained increasing support following the 11th Meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention.

The Basel Convention – shorthand for the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal – came into force in 1992 and imposes trade controls on hazardous wastes.

Norway’s proposal aims to tackle the tide of marine plastic waste and litter by adding plastic waste to Annex II of the Basel Convention, a list of wastes for ‘special consideration’ under the Convention that requires notification by exporting countries and consent by importing countries prior to export.

Norwegian proposal to place trade controls on waste plastics gains support

The issue of the trade of waste plastics has become especially pertinent in 2018 due to the Chinese ban on the import of 24 grades of solid waste, including post-consumer plastics, due to environmental concerns and the corresponding upending of the waste exports market. Much of the plastic waste that was diverted to other South East Asian economies, with plastic waste exports to Malaysia tripling in the first four months of 2018, though these countries are now following China’s lead and imposing their own import restrictions.

Many countries voiced their support for the Norwegian proposal on the floor of the meeting, including: China, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, South Africa, State of Palestine, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

Resistance to the proposals, however, was expressed by the EU, Canada, Japan and Australia.

In addition to the Norway proposal on trade controls for plastic waste exports, a further proposal on the creation of a multi-stakeholder global partnership on the minimization of plastic waste was made, with both proposals to be forwarded to the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention for a final decision in April 2019.

Commenting on Norway’s proposal, Jim Puckett, Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), said: "The Basel Convention is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in stemming the flood tide of plastic waste now engulfing the entire planet. They can do this not only by controlling unwanted trade, but by promoting steps to minimize the production of single-use and other unsustainable plastic products. We are thrilled that this week's meeting has clearly signaled a turning of the tide."

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic movement, added: "South East Asia is already being hit hard by a tsunami of plastic waste. The Norwegian proposal to place plastic scrap under Basel controls will be a significant first step to protect Southeast Asia and developing countries everywhere from becoming the trash bins of the developed world." 

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