International

180 nations agree on a new UN accord to curb export of plastic waste

A file photo of divers collecting plastic and other debris, in Southern Sinai, Egypt. | Photo Credit: AP
AFP 11 May 2019 21:35 IST
Updated: 11 May 2019 21:35 IST

UN deal empowers developing countries to refuse dumping

Around 180 governments on Friday agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste, some eight million tonnes of which ends up in the oceans each year, organisers said.

The 1,400 representatives, meeting in Geneva reached the agreement after 12 days’ discussion on what Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) called “one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues”.

Basel Convention

The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.

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“I’m proud that this week in Geneva, Parties to the Basel Convention have reached agreement on a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste,” said Mr. Payet.

The IPEN umbrella group seeking to eliminate hazardous and toxic chemicals said the new amendment would empower developing countries to refuse “dumping plastic waste” by others.

“For far too long developed countries like the US and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country

“Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean,” said IPEN science adviser Sara Brosche. Plastic waste pollution has reached “epidemic proportions” with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans.

The a meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups — Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid, plus related compounds. The latter has been used in a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as carpets, paper and paints.

Even though the U.S. and a few others have not signed the accord, they cannot ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.

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