On May 10th, there was a significant move towards regulating the export of plastic waste as 180 governments collectively agreed on the new UN framework and the amendment of the Basel Convention (1989). The meeting in Geneva involved 1,400 representatives who arrived at this decision after 12 days of intense analysis and deliberation. A consensus was reached to include plastic waste in the Convention. A global push for controlling waste, saving marine animals and creating cleaner oceans has come about due to the estimation that 8 million tonnes of plastic is entering the ocean annually. Combating marine pollution is also a key theme of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as goal 14 addresses “Life Below Water,” and goal 6 focuses on “Clean Water and Sanitation.”
The Basel Convention or the International Environmental Agreement, handles the regulation of hazardous waste globally. This international treaty came into existence due to fear surrounding the negative impact of toxic waste on the environment and human beings. Therefore, by acknowledging plastic as an additional toxic waste, countries are now forced to carry out the conditions of this legally binding agreement.
According to Mr. Rolph Payet, the Executive Secretary of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), this discussion was on “one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues,” Payet went on to say that he’s “… 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,”
Developing countries have particularly struggled with the removal of waste and images of this have circulated social media in recent years. Some examples of these include South Beach along the coast of Monrovia Liberia and the Aceh province in Indonesia. The IPEN, an organisation committed to eliminating hazardous wastes stated that “For far too long developed countries like the U.S. and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country.” Sara Brosche, the IPEN science advisor, explained “Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean,” This pollution then kills marine wildlife and contaminates oceans. The urgency of this global epidemic is prevalent and must be approached accordingly.
This move towards regulating plastic waste shows the commitment of governments globally which is incredibly positive for global environmental safety. It also demonstrates the commitment of the United Nations, as they continue to work towards their SDG goals and international security objectives. However, there remains no clear solution to solve this issue entirely. Nevertheless, the creation of a legally binding framework provides hope for combating this problem. Other efforts include Government bans of single-use plastic bags and companies becoming more environmentally conscious in their decisions. By raising international standards for managing waste, there is hope for a noticeable improvement in the oceans and the environment on a global scale.
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