Compacted plastic waste

Meeting seeks a way to clean up international trade in plastic waste

This month, Parties to the Basel Convention will convene in Geneva to discuss concrete steps toward cleaning up international trade in plastic waste.

Currently, exports of mixed plastic waste from North America and Europe are overwhelming countries in Asia and elsewhere which do not have the infrastructure to handle them – with significant implications for the marine environment and local communities.

Amendments have been proposed by Norway to address the issue, requiring prior informed consent from importing counties for any plastic waste that has not been separated and sorted before to export.

A woman sifts through a Pile of Plastic waste collected for processing

Plastic waste exported for processing in China

Norway’s proposals seek to clean up international trade in plastic waste by dividing it into three general categories:

  • “Clean” Plastic Waste – covering recyclable plastic waste sorted prior to export (not mixed with other wastes or contaminated) which is deemed non-problematic because pre-sorting exports reduces the risk of mismanagement and the burden on importing countries
  • “Other” Plastic Waste – covering plastic waste mixed with each other or other wastes, or which is contaminated
  • “Hazardous” Plastic Waste – covering plastic waste considered hazardous.

These amendments are a critical part of a new global architecture to address plastics and plastic pollution.

Our campaigners are attending the Geneva meeting to advocate a strong response and have co-authored a short paper with recommendations.

“The Norwegian amendments are the first of many actions required at the international level to address plastic pollution,” said Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer. “Their adoption will provide much-needed momentum heading into difficult discussions on a possible new global agreement.”