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UN Decides to Control Global Plastic  Waste Dumping

UN Decides to Control Global Plastic Waste Dumping

Major Plastic Waste Producers Must Get Consent Before Exporting their Toxic Trash to Global South

Also available in Bahasa Indonesia: PBB Memutuskan untuk Mengontrol Pembuangan Sampah Plastik Global

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAY 10, 2019

Geneva, Switzerland — Today, 187 countries took a major step forward 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.

The decision reflects a growing recognition around the world of the toxic impacts of plastic and the plastic waste trade. The majority of countries expressed their support for the proposal and over one million people globally signed two public petitions from Avaaz and SumOfUs. Yet even amidst this overwhelming support, there were a few vocal outliers who opposed listing plastic under Annex II of the Basel Convention. These included the United States, the largest exporter of plastic waste in the world; the American Chemistry Council, a prominent petrochemical industry lobbying group; and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a business association largely comprised of waste brokers. As the United States is not a party to the Basel Convention, it will be banned from trading plastic waste with developing countries that are Basel Parties but not part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “Today’s decision demonstrates that countries are finally catching up with the urgency and magnitude of the plastic pollution issue and shows what ambitious international leadership looks like. Plastic pollution in general and plastic waste in particular remain a major threat to people and the planet, but we are encouraged by the decision of the Basel Convention as we look to the future bold decisions that will be needed to tackle plastic pollution at its roots, starting with reducing production.”
Contact: David Azoulay, +41 78 75 78 756, dazoulay@ciel.org

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free from Plastic: “This is a crucial first step towards stopping the use of developing countries as a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, especially those coming from rich nations. Countries at the receiving end of mixed and unsorted plastic waste from foreign sources now have the right to refuse these problematic shipments, in turn compelling source countries to ensure exports of clean, recyclable plastics only. Recycling will not be enough, however.  Ultimately, production of plastics has to be significantly curtailed to effectively resolve the plastic pollution crisis.”
Contact: Von Hernandez, +63 9175263050, vonhernandez (Skype)

Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center: “Recycling is supposed to be part of the solution, this legislation will help prevent it from being a source of pollution. False claims by the plastic industry about plastic recycling resulted in a complete disaster for communities and ecosystems around the globe. This legislation raises the bar for plastic recycling which is good for people and the planet, and will help restore consumer confidence that recycling is still the right thing to do.”
Contact: Martin Bourque, martin@ecologycenter.org

Mageswari Sangaralingam, Research Officer, Friends of the Earth Malaysia: “Controls on the plastic waste trade are much needed now to curb dumping of waste in the Global South. The inclusion of prior informed consent is a step towards addressing the issues of the plastic waste trade and pollution crisis. Recycling is not enough, we need to break free from plastic.”
Contact: Mageswari Sangaralingam, +60128782706, magesling@gmail.com

Dr Tadesse Amera, CoChair, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) (Ethiopia): “Africa knows a lot about waste dumping due to our experience with e-waste. This decision will help prevent the continent from becoming the next target of plastic waste dumping after Asia closes its doors.”
Contact: Tadesse Amera, +251911243030 (phone/whatsapp), tadesseamera@ipen.org

Prigi Arisandi, Founder, Ecoton (Indonesia): “We hope these Convention amendments will reduce marine litter — but on the ground in Indonesia we will continue monitoring the waste trade, and pushing our government to properly manage imported plastics. We call on exporting countries to respect their obligation not to dump their rubbish in Global South countries and our government to strictly enforce restrictions and strengthen our custom controls.”
Contact: Prigi Arisandi, +62 8175033042, prigi@ecoton.or.id

Yuyun Ismawati, Co-founder, BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation: “This amendment could be a game changer and force every country to set a higher standard of responsible plastic waste management. Toxic plastics disposed by rich communities in other countries will no longer become the burden of poor communities.”
Contact: Yuyun Ismawati, +447583768707, yuyun@balifokus.asia

Sirine Rached, Global Policy Advocate, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA): “It’s only fair that countries should have the right to refuse plastic pollution shipped to their borders. China had raised the ambition, arguing for countries to have the right to refuse virtually all plastic waste imports, but the final result was a compromise. Since the onslaught of plastic dumping will continue for a year until the measures come into effect, GAIA calls on countries to protect themselves from global plastic waste dumping by banning dirty plastic imports in national law. Countries can tackle the plastic pollution problem while protecting the climate, by focusing on reducing plastics and shifting to Zero Waste systems free from dirty technologies like incineration or plastic-to-fuel.”
Contact: Sirine Rached, +33 6 76 90 02 80, sirine@no-burn.org

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network (BAN): “Today we have taken a major first step to stem the tide of plastic waste now flowing from the rich developed countries to developing countries in Africa and Asia, all in the name of “recycling,” but causing massive and harmful pollution, both on land and in the sea. A true circular economy was never meant to circulate pollution around the globe. It can only be achieved by eliminating negative externalities and not just pushing them off to developing countries.”
Contact: Jim Puckett, jpuckett@ban.org

Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA): “The Basel amendments are a critical pillar of an emerging global architecture to address plastic pollution. Other international bodies must now do their part, including ambitious measures under the IMO and ultimately a new legally binding UN treaty. The EU was a vocal and active supporter of the Basel amendments, proposing to increase ambition so that only the cleanest of clean plastic waste would not be subject to notification. The EU is not only leading by example but taking its Plastics Strategy to the international level.”
Contact: Tim Grabiel, +33 6 32 76 77 04, tgrabiel@gmail.com

 

Norway’s groundbreaking amendment to stop plastic dumping gains massive support

Norway’s groundbreaking amendment to stop plastic dumping gains massive support

04/05/19, 1330, GENEVA

Contact: Von Hernandez #breakfreefromplastic Global Coordinator, von@breakfreefromplastic.org, +63 917 526 3050

Today, at 14th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP14), discussions began on the amendment proposed by Norway and supported by more than 600,000 people around the world which would restrict the international trade of plastic waste.

If passed, this amendment would require exporting countries to get the prior informed consent of receiving countries—enabling developing countries to stop huge amounts of unmanageable waste arriving on their shores. The vast human impact of this waste was recently exposed in GAIA’s (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) latest report ‘Discarded: Communities on the Frontlines of the Global Plastic Pollution Crisis’

This amendment was strongly supported by the civil society movement including members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement such as IPEN, BAN, GAIA, Friends of the Earth, CIEL, EIA, and other groups including Avaaz and SumOfUs.

In a speech addressing the delegates, Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator for the #breakfreefromplastic movement, highlighted the injustice of the waste dumping in the recipient countries. “If you have seen what we have seen on the ground in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines—it would be a stretch to even refer to these local processing operations as “recycling.” It is waste dumping for all intents and purposes.”

The presentation of the petition of more than 700,000 people supporting the Norway amendment to the President of the Basel Convention by Mageswari Sangaralingam, Prigi Arisandi and Von Hernandez.

People gathered inside the convention calling for delegates to support the Norwegian Amendment, as the petition totalling more than 600,000 people was presented to the presidency of the Convention.

Mageswari Sangaralingam, speaking for the Consumers’ Association of Penang and for Friends of the Earth, Malaysia said: “While the Malaysian government has already issued restrictions on plastic waste imports, the pollution, disease, and economic burden of cleaning up will remain in our communities for decades. The rich countries cannot continue polluting Asia. They have to manage their own waste at home.”

Bert Wander, Campaign Director at Avaaz said: “It’s unbelievable that richer countries are dumping millions of tonnes of plastic waste on countries that don’t even have capacity to process it. Now negotiators must decide—turn a blind eye to the devastation we are causing the planet and choke off more coastlines and communities, or face this head-on and agree to a deal that will finally help end this outrageous plastic crisis.”

Eoin Dubsky, campaigner at SumOfUs said: “Fake plastic waste recycling stops here. In the past two decades, businesses in the EU, US, Japan, Mexico, and Canada have been exporting millions of tonnes of plastic waste overseas. That’s how European and North American plastic ends up choking the rivers and coasts of countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.”

Prigi Arisandi, Indonesian Environmental Activist, Goldman Prize winner, and founder of the Indonesian NGO, Ecoton said: We refuse to be bullied by rich countries any longer. We cannot be burdened by waste we did not produce in the first place. We demand that the rich countries clean up their act and take their waste back. We also call on the leaders gathered here today to stop allowing this injustice to continue. We can stop this merely by saying “enough!” and meaning it.

Picture of the demonstration in support of the Norway Amendment at the Basel Convention

ENDS

NOTES

  1. #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,500 organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. Sign up at www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
  2. More than 600,000 people have signed petitions supporting the Norwegian Amendment across two petitions on the Avaaz and SumofUs websites.
Revolutionary: Zlarin becomes the first Croatian plastic-free island!

Revolutionary: Zlarin becomes the first Croatian plastic-free island!

Article from #breakfreefromplastic group Zelena Akcija.

Motivated by the European Single Use Plastic Directive, a group of local activists from the island of Zlarin in Croatia had an idea of Zlarin becoming an island free from single-use plastic. They won a contest for the most innovative solutions that will help prevent further plastic pollution entering the Adriatic Sea. Then, a few months later, the vision started becoming a reality when all shops, restaurants, NGOs and local authorities signed the declaration to replace disposable plastic with more environmentally friendly solutions to contribute to stopping plastic pollution.

The Zero Waste Croatia Network that collects and supports best practices in Croatia congratulates the island of Zlarin and all those engaged in this significant success.

“As a member of international Break Free From Plastic movement we congratulate the island of Zlarin! We have worked to get strong and motivating EU legislation to stop plastic pollution, and soon after that we already have concrete results here in Croatia. Zlarin is the first, and hopefully many other islands and municipalities will follow!”, says Marko Košak, coordinator of the Zero Waste Croatia Network, member of global Break Free From Plastic movement.

“Our goal isn’t to simply replace all single use plastic items with another single use items made of more environmental friendly materials. Our goal is to once again start using reusable items – going shopping with canvas bags, using glass instead of plastic bottles, using tap water instead of bottled water at events etc. Plastic cups and cutlery will be replaced by more sustainable solutions and straws will be completely phased out”, says Ana Elizabeta Robb from Zlarin, one of the initiators of this successful project.

After this crucial step, Zlarin won’t stop.

“We already had meeting with local activists and have planned the next actions to improve quality of life on the island. The Croatian Ministry of Environment doesn’t do much to stop plastic pollution, so we are applying pressure from bottom up. With our zero waste municipalities and plastic-free islands like Zlarin we are on the right track to transform our society and environment to be a better place for living“, concludes Marko Košak.

European Responses to the Plastic Pact

European Responses to the Plastic Pact

On Thursday 20th of February two ‘Plastic Pacts’ were released in France and the Netherlands. These ‘pacts’ are voluntary agreements led primarily by industry groups committing to increased recyclability of packaging materials. Two organisations from the #breakfreefromplastic movement have issued responses to the launch of these pacts. In France, Zero Waste France & Surfrider Europe issued their response calling for binding political measures. Whilst in the Netherlands, the Recycling Netwerk published their response, again demanding firm legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. You can find both of these statements below as well as on the respective websites.

 

Recycling Netwerk’s response to the Dutch pact:

Dutch “Plastic Pact” may increase recycling, but it won’t solve the plastic pollution

The Plastic Pact of the Dutch government and 80 plastic producing companies will lead to more efficient recycling, but it won’t solve the plastic waste problem, the Belgian-Dutch environmental ngo Recycling Netwerk Benelux says today.

The Dutch secretary of state responsible for environment, Stientje van Veldhoven (D66, social liberals) presents a Plastic pact concluded with 80 companies on Thursday.

“Every initiative to tackle the plastic problem is welcome. But the voluntary recycling agreements in the pact will only slightly reduce the pollution caused by a plastic production that spiralled out of control”, director Rob Buurman of the Dutch-Belgian ngo says. “The Plastic Pact does not bring the much needed system change to deal with plastics in a different way”.

The target of qualitative recycling of 70% in the pact is ambitious and good. But it should be written in a law, not in a voluntary agreement that cannot be controlled by the government, Buurman says.

All targets of the Plastic Pact aim for 2025. “The Dutch government should make agreements that they can verify in the actual governing period until 2021”, Rob Buurman insists.

The Pact will not lead to less plastic litter or less plastic soup. It encourages so-called bio-based plastics, but these pollute as much as any other plastics.

“These kind of voluntary agreements are too little and too late. We’re in 2019. The Dutch government should urgently make firm legislation to make the plastic producers responsible for all clean-up costs, enlarge the deposit-return system to small plastic bottles, and introduce legally binding reduction targets for plastics, Recycling Netwerk concludes.

Rob Buurman, director Recycling Netwerk Benelux rob.buurman@recyclingnetwerk.org +31 616 40 10 40

Press contact: Tom Zoete, communication Recycling Netwerk Benelux tom.zoete@recyclingnetwerk.org +31 616 10 10 50

 

Zero Waste France’s response to the French pact:

 

National Pact on plastic packaging : NGOs point the urgent need for binding political measures

The French Ministry for the Environment and several voluntary companies are signing a National Pact on Plastic Packaging.

Zero Waste France and Surfrider Foundation Europe, members of the Break Free From Plastic movement, which brings together 1700 civil society organisations at international level, are alerting policy-makers: it is no longer time for voluntary commitments but for national regulatory measures to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

A voluntary pact insufficient to deal with the extent of plastic pollution

Every year, the production and consumption of plastic materials in the world is higher than the previous year. The disposable packaging sector is one of the main drivers of this growth. In France, it absorbs 45% of all plastic consumed nationally and represents 60% of the plastic waste produced. The sector’s forecasts do not show any signs of a downturn: global plastic production is expected to increase by 40% in the next 10 years and disposable packaging accounts for a third of this increase.

In this context, the Voluntary Pact on Plastic Packaging signed today at the Ministry seems not to be sufficient to reverse this trend of exponential growth. While it includes some commitments regarding the progress of plastic recycling, it does not contain any quantified target for a net reduction in the quantities of disposable plastic packaging placed in the market.

Above all, it is a “voluntary” Pact, which will therefore not apply to all economic actors but only to those stakeholders who consider themselves bound. It cannot therefore be a substitute to proper public policy that results from democratic debate and applies to all.

The need for political action on the plastics frontline

Antidia Citores, spokesperson for Surfrider Foundation Europe: “At a time when nearly 25,000 citizens are taking up the challenges of the Ocean zero application to reduce their daily plastic impact and prevent marine pollution, it is more than time for public authorities to take real binding legislative measures to reduce plastic pollution at source in compliance with EU obligations and environmental emergency”.

“While the beginning of the year has been marked by worrying political setbacks in the fight against plastic pollution, we expect from the government binding measures to reduce single-use plastic, which can lead the way and set the ambition for all the stakeholders,” adds Laura Châtel, advocacy officer at Zero Waste France. “The plastic reduction target cannot be flexible and voluntary”.

At the end of January, the Senate reviewed, within the framework of the PACTE law, the plastic product bans planned for 2020, even though they were formally adopted this very same year. At the same time, the first version of the government’s draft « Circular Economy » law, which was circulated in the press, contained no measures relating to plastics. France has positioned itself as a leader in the fight against plastic pollution at European level during the negotiations on the Plastic Directive, a leadership that should be reflected in its domestic policy.

To reverse the trend and address the problem of plastic pollution at its roots, the NGOs are calling for:

  • A national target for the reduction of disposable plastic packaging ;
  • economic and regulatory support measures to encourage bulk sales and reuse systems for packaging ;
  • Single-use plastic products bans (cups, straws, crockery, etc.) already voted by the National Assembly to be maintained, strengthened (extension of the ban on cups and food containers in collective catering) and effectively implemented;
EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

(Photo by MPCA Photos)

 

This press release was originally issued by the Rethink Plastic alliance. The European policy alliance of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.

Brussels, 30 January 2019 – The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.

The European Chemicals Agency says that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products leak into the environment yearly, are impossible to remove and last for thousands of years. The scale of the problem is dramatic: six times the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 10 billion plastic bottles, the agency says. Microplastics accumulate and persist in the environment, one of the main reasons why the agency concluded it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, the strictest set of chemical laws in the world.

The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, said on behalf of Rethink Plastic: “The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us. It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight, but is a necessary step.”

The ban is part of the EU plastics strategy that saw Europe become the first continent to start banning many types of single use plastic by 2021.

ENDS

PRESS CONTACTS:

Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
 +32 2 736 20 91roberta@rethinkplasticalliance.eu

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer, European Environmental Bureau
elise.vitali@eeb.org

Alice Bernard, Lawyer, Chemicals, ClientEarth
ABernard@clientearth.org

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FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Read the proposal and the annex.