The agreement on tracking thousands of types of plastic waste, emerged Friday at the end of a two-week meeting of U.N.-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals that threaten the planet’s seas.
Discarded plastic clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and rivers and entangles wildlife and sealife, many times with deadly results particularly in countries bathed by the Caribbean Sea and countries in South East Asia that depend on the sea for a living.
Countries exporting plastic waste– including the US – will now have to obtain consent from countries receiving contaminated, mixed or unrecyclable plastic waste. At present, the US and other countries can send lower-quality plastic waste to private entities in developing countries without getting approval from their governments.
According to the Guardian, “Since China stopped accepting recycling from the US, activists say they have observed plastic waste piling up in developing countries. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia), a backer of the deal, says it found villages in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia that had “turned into dumpsites over the course of a year”.
“We were finding that there was waste from the US that was just piled up in villages throughout these countries that had once been primarily agricultural communities,” said Claire Arkin, a spokeswoman for Gaia,” the Guardian said.
Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the “historic” agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.
Payet said “It’s sending a very strong political signal to the rest of the world — to the private sector, to the consumer market — that we need to do something,”. “Countries have decided to do something which will translate into real action on the ground.”
Countries will have to figure out their own ways of adhering to the accord, Payet said. Even the few countries that did not sign it, like the United States, could be affected by the accord when they ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.
He compared plastic pollution to an “epidemic”, with “an estimated 100m tonnes of plastic [110m US tons] now found in the oceans, 80 to 90% of which comes from land-based sources”.
The pact comes in an amendment to the Basel convention. The US is not a party to that convention so it did not have a vote, but attendees at the meeting said the country argued against the change, saying officials didn’t understand the repercussions it would have on the plastic waste trade.
The Basel convention sets rules for first-world countries shipping hazardous waste to less wealthy nations. Backers say the amendment will make the global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, protecting humans and the environment.
- Countries: United_States
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