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Toxic exports Geneva meeting agrees landmark deal on plastic waste

Birds scavenge on plastic polluted beach

Plastic pollution in our oceans has become an urgent environmental problem.


Representatives of more than 180 countries meeting in Geneva have reached agreement on a legally binding framework to help regulate exports of plastic waste. The agreement came with the help of a compromise proposed by Switzerland.

UN officials said most of the world's countries have signed up, with the notable exception of the United States. 

All plastics considered as toxic now have to be listed under the Basel Conventionexternal link on movement and disposal of hazardous waste. Destination countries must be informed and give approval before export.

“It’s a success for Switzerland,” Franz Perrez, head of international affairs at the Federal Office for the Environmentexternal link, told the Keystone-SDA news agency.  He said the agreement would “reduce significantly” exports of plastics listed as toxic.

The agreement is among a number of decisionsexternal link from the Conferences of Parties to the Basel, Rotterdamexternal link and Stockholm conventionsexternal link, known as “Triple COPs”.

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the three conventions said it should help reduce pollution of the world’s oceans.

Perrez said it was necessary to be “realistic” on this issue and that “the majority of the pollution is not necessarily linked to exports but to national management of waste”. For this reason, a new “Partnership on Plastics” has also been launched to help certain States. It aims to “mobilise business, government, academic and civil society resources, interests and expertise”.

Pollution from plastic waste, acknowledged as a major environmental problem, has reached epidemic proportions, according to the website of the Basel Convention. An estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic are now found in the oceans, 80-90% of which comes from land-based sources.


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