GENEVA: Approximately 1400 delegates from over 180 countries gathered in Geneva worked together under the theme of “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”. The meetings were held under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. Major decisions to curb the plastic and chemical pollution across the globe were taken in the conventions.
The United Nations had acknowledged plastic pollution as one of the greatest environmental hazards globally and intended to curb it at the Basel convention. An estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic has been found in the oceans out of which 80 to 90 per cent comes from land-based sources. This directly indicates the seriousness of the issue at hand and the Basel convention addressed it with the 187 countries adopting a draft of decisions aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects of chemicals and waste. Various countries have agreed to control the movement of plastic waste between their national borders at the Basel convention. One of the major changes introduced in the meetings was the categorization of non-hazardous plastic waste that is not recyclable, as a waste requiring special consideration and enlisting it under Annex II of the Basel convention. This alteration has been made as a bid to reduce and control the movement of non-recyclable plastic waste. The countries will work together to improve the management of such plastic waste under the Basel Convention Partnership for Plastic Wastes.
The production of new plastic goods is projected to rise exponentially in the coming 10 years. However, the world is less equipped to handle the waste generated from such drastic rise in production, as the collection and initial sorting of used plastics is currently low and hence these new targeted plastic waste management techniques will prove to be instrumental in the near future. The new amendment to the Basel convention includes plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which would effectively introduce better regulations for global trade in plastic waste, while ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment. A new Partnership on Plastic Waste was established to mobilize business, government, academic and civil society resources, interests and expertise to assist in implementing the new measures, to provide a set of practical support including – tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance – for this ground-breaking agreement.
Complementing this was the decision to eliminate two toxic chemical groups which combine to a total of 4,000 chemicals. One of these chemicals, Perfluorooctanoic Acid, has till now found a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as a surfactant in textiles, carpets, paper, paints and fire-fighting foams.
The Rotterdam Convention, which followed the Basel convention, also saw a legally-binding framework for information exchange and informed decision-making in the trade of certain hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals. Two more chemicals, the pesticide phorate and the industrial chemical hexabromocyclododecane were added to Annex III of the Geneva convention here. This made them subject to the Prior Informed Consent Procedure, through which countries can decide on future imports of these chemicals.
In his closing speech, Rolph Payet, UN Environment’s executive secretary of the three conventions said, “I’m proud that this week in Geneva, Parties to the Basel Convention have reached agreement on a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste. Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, and the fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high. We were able to list two out of 7 candidate chemicals and will continue working closely with parties to identify feasible alternative solutions to hazardous pesticides, taking due account of food security and market access aspects.”