Groups highlight key waste trade issues to watch out for
Manila/Bangkok/New Delhi (February 24, 2022) — More than two hundred environmental groups belonging to the Break Free From Plastic movement in the Asia-Pacific region are urging their respective governments to support the call towards a new binding legal instrument that will cover the entire life cycle of plastics and is not limited to “marine litter”.
A recent poll covering 20,000 people across 28 countries has indicated that three in four people want single-use plastics to be banned as soon as possible. The poll is relevant in the run-up to the member states of the United Nations gathering in Nairobi, Kenya for the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) from February 28 - March 2.
Associate Professor Trisia Farrelly of Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre (NZ) said:
“We need a legally binding treaty with a scope that extends beyond marine litter to capture the full life cycle of plastics including extraction, production, manufacture, distribution, consumption, management, and ecological and biological contamination. But the primary goal of the treaty must be prevention. The tap can most effectively be turned off by capping virgin plastics while simultaneously designing plastics and their associated toxic chemicals out of the circular economy wherever possible. The intergovernmental committee responsible for negotiating the treaty will need an open mandate to enable it to appropriately respond to the latest scientific evidence; local and traditional, responses, knowledge, innovations, and practices; and emerging risks and challenges.”
Satyarupa Shekhar, the Asia-Pacific Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic said:
“We can no longer delay actions on addressing the root causes of the plastic pollution crisis. The treaty and the national action plans should not rely on voluntary or corporate-led programs, such as the Extended Producers’ Responsibility (EPR), plastic pacts, or plastic offsetting schemes. These are greenwashing efforts whose primary purpose is to prevent effective regulation and delay action to resolve plastic pollution at source, while doing little to prevent accelerating plastic pollution production and its multiple, long term impacts along the entire plastics supply chain.”
Joe Athialy of Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), India said:
“We need long-term and drastic reductions in the scale of plastics production, eliminating toxic plastic additives, and pollution. Moreover, plastic is a toxic carbon. We can fully fight the scourge of this environmental and climate crisis through a legally binding treaty.”
From February 21-25, in the run-up to the UNEA 5.2, the National Hawkers’ Federation (NHF) took to the streets in over 15 cities in 9 states in India, for a series of demonstrations calling upon the Indian government to sign the Global Plastics Treaty. The NHF works actively with street vendors across the country, fighting for their rights and recognition. Supporting the Global Plastics Treaty would ensure that street vendors have alternatives to plastic, can stem the flow of disposals into terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and help curb the impacts on human health and biodiversity.
Basel Convention - plastic waste crisis
In 2019, 187 countries took a major step in curbing the plastic waste crisis by adding plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that controls the movement of hazardous waste from one country to another. The amendments require exporters to obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste, providing an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.
After China banned imports of most plastic waste in 2018, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, have received a huge influx of contaminated and mixed plastic wastes that are difficult or even impossible to recycle. Norway's proposed amendments to the Basel Convention provides countries the right to refuse unwanted or unmanageable plastic waste.
China’s decision reflects a growing recognition around the world of the toxic impacts of plastic and the plastic waste trade. The waste situation in Asia-Pacific has been exacerbated by sachet waste and other non-recyclable plastic discards largely circulated by multinational corporations, including those that are illegally dumped here by developing countries such as Japan, US, UK, EU, and the Netherlands. Disturbingly, efforts to cripple the global plastics treaty, notably by oil and chemical companies are underway, to "shift the debate", focus on the benefits of plastic, and continue producing plastic. This has had and will continue to have cascading effects in Asia-Pacific where many countries have inadequate infrastructure and resources to safely handle all types of waste.
“Plastic pollution in general and plastic waste in particular remain a major threat to people and the planet, but we are looking forward to the outcomes of UNEA 5.2 - a global plastic treaty that tackles plastic pollution at its roots, starting with reducing production. Our on-ground, campaigning and advocacy on zero-waste solutions work in the Asia-Pacific region that contribute towards transitioning to a circular economy must be complemented with real solutions from governments and our policymakers,” Shekhar added.