"The international trade in plastic wastes has developed into a large global multimillion industry, currently outside any international regulations. It has large impacts on the environment and human well-being. Lack of environmentally sound management systems causes plastic waste to be inadequately disposed of, increasing the risk of it ultimately entering our oceans. It may also cause significant environmental and health problems at the point of destination. This is the rationale behind the Norwegian proposal," stated Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen.
Marine plastic litter is one of the fastest growing environmental challenges of our time. Norway has taken global leadership in the global effort to tackle this problem. Norway has put forward several initiatives to strengthen the mandate of the Basel Convention, currently the only global multilateral environmental agreement dealing with environmentally related waste issues. The 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention takes place this week in Geneva. The Parties are expected to adopt a "plastic package" with several elements strengthening the convention on plastic wastes, including stronger control of different streams of plastic wastes as well as strengthened collaboration at the global level.
The Norwegian proposal has gained attention world wide. The Basel Convention has provisions that regulate transboundary transport of hazardous wastes and other waste for the purposes of preventing adverse environmental effects.
"There is a huge pressure on a number of developing countries to import plastic wastes. Lack of capacity to process large amounts of plastic wastes increases the risk of plastic waste ending up in the environment. Our proposal will give the authorities a means to better control the sorts and amounts of plastic wastes entering their countries," said Elvestuen.
The proposal for amendment will make plastic waste streams that are not directly destined for a recycling plant, subject to the Prior Informed Consent Procedure. It means that the importing country must issue a licence before transport takes place. It will provide a stronger control of national export and import policies to safeguard environmental and social aspects. Today, this trade is to a large extent without any control or regulation at the global level and many countries lack capacity for the environmentally sound disposal of wastes.
Following the entry into force of the Chinese National Sword Policy early 2018, the pressure on other countries to accept larger quantities of plastic wastes has increased. Only an estimated between 9-12 percent of plastic waste is recycled on a global level. The Norwegian proposal will make it economically viable to ensure sorting plastic wastes in clean fractions that will facilitate recycling. This way the proposal can trigger the marked for secondary raw materials as well.
Norway also wants a stronger collaboration between governments, civil society, industry and private sector in the joint efforts to deal with the global growing challenge of plastic waste ending up in the environment. A partnership under the Basel Convention will be a new way of collaboration on a global level.