Consigning the export of plastic waste to the dustbin of history


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In a bid to limit the transnational movement of plastic waste, governments from around the world agreed to classify non-recyclable and hard-to-recycle mixed plastics as hazardous. The decision came during a recent meeting of the signatories to the Basel convention, an international treaty which restricts the flow of hazardous waste, especially between richer and poorer countries.

Once the new restrictions enter into force, private companies will no longer be allowed to ship these categories of plastic waste directly to private partners in other countries. Instead, they will first have to gain the consent of the importing country’s government, thereby empowering local authorities to ensure that their territories do not become global landfills.

The landmark amendment started life as a Norwegian proposal which enjoyed the backing of the European Union. Norway’s proposal was partly motivated out of concern for the 100 million tonnes of plastics choking our oceans, 80-90% of which originate on land, and partly out of concern for the environmental and human impact of this trade in plastic refuse.

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