Bridging the Basel Convention Gaps with the Future Plastics Treaty

The growing momentum to address plastic pollution through global governance has seen the emergence of new international regulations on the management of plastic waste under the Basel Convention. While these new Basel Convention controls on plastic waste trade and management are vital, to date, they only partially address the continued threat the trade and management of plastic waste poses to workers, communities, ecosystems and planetary boundaries. This threat includes the specific injustices experienced by developing countries inundated with plastic waste that they are neither responsible for nor able to manage in an environmentally sound manner. These shortcomings are, at times, due to structural limitations in the Basel Convention’s mandate, legal gaps within its provisions, and an alarming record of insufficient enforcement.

While recognising and supporting the need to avoid duplication of mandates, institutions and resources between treaties, the new legally binding international instrument to end plastic pollution offers an excellent opportunity to highlight and fill gaps that either fall outside the scope of the Basel Convention or that the Basel Convention is not effectively addressing. This paper, written together with the Basel Action Network (BAN) and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA),  aims to identify those gaps relating to the management of plastic waste that are both within the Basel Convention mandate as well as those falling outside of its scope. As a matter of coherence in international governance to solve the plastic pollution crisis, it is incumbent on members of the Plastics Treaty Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to find the means to fill these gaps or, as appropriate, press the Basel Convention Parties to fulfil its mandate with respect to plastic waste.