Plastics are extremely durable, making the ubiquitous transboundary movement of plastic waste a major concern. The majority of polymers manufactured today is likely to persist for decades and probably for centuries, if not millennia.
Plastic waste comes in many forms
In addition to polymers, additives such as flame retardants and plasticizers are mixed into synthetic materials to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. Some of these substances are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). A variety of international and regional instruments and approaches exist to protect biodiversity, manage hazardous chemicals and wastes and prevent pollution of the marine environment from ocean-based and land-based sources of pollution. The cooperation among those initiatives and activities is key to effectively addressing this global environmental challenge.
Strengthening waste management systems and tackling plastic waste at source
Plastic pollution can arise at all stages of the life-cycle, from production, to use and final disposal. The greatest burden of plastic waste entering the sea is likely to arise where waste collection and management systems are ineffective. Developing countries in particular may face challenges in managing the rapidly growing volume of plastic wastes for instance if they have insufficient capacity to dispose of them in an environmentally sound manner. This may lead to the dumping of plastic wastes on land or in waters and to the need to rely on the continued availability of recycling or other disposal capacity in other states.
Meanwhile, the plastic waste challenge also needs to be tackled at source. Steps promoting the prevention and minimization of the generation of plastic waste, where technically and economically feasible, are critical.
Actions from the Basel Convention
The Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal was adopted on 22nd March 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland. The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as household waste and incinerator ash. Since its establishment, many guidances, guidelines, manuals, methodologies and strategies have been developed to assist parties and others to implement the Basel Convention. In line with the mandate set out in paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the Convention and Decision BC-14/18 on technical assistance, technical assistance and capacity-building activities to implement the Basel Convention including for plastic waste are carried out.
In May 2019, the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention adopted Decision BC-14/12 by which it amended Annexes II, VIII and IX to the Convention in relation to plastic waste. In addition, the Conference of the Parties adopted Decision BC-14/13 on further actions to address plastic waste under the Basel Convention. The Decision includes in its sections I, II, III and VII a set of actions for preventing and minimizing the generation of plastic waste, improving its environmentally sound management and controlling its transboundary movement; reducing the risk review of Annexes I, III and IV and related aspects of Annexes VIII and IX to consider, as part of its mandate, whether any additional constituents or characteristics in relation to plastic waste should be added to Annex I or III, respectively, to the Convention.
In section V of the Decision (Technical guidelines), the Conference of the Parties decided to update the 2002 technical guidelines for the identification and environmentally sound management of plastic wastes and for their disposal. In section VI of the Decision (Basel Convention partnership on plastic waste), the Conference of the Parties welcomed the proposal to establish a Basel Convention partnership on plastic waste and decided to establish a working group of the Partnership. The goal of the Partnership is to improve and promote the environmentally sound management of plastic wastes at the global, regional and national levels and prevent and minimize their generation so as to, among other things, reduce significantly and in the long-term eliminate the discharge of plastic waste and microplastics into the environment, in particular the marine environment. In section VIII (Further consideration), the Conference of the parties decided to include in the work program of the Open-ended Working Group for 2020 - 2021 the consideration of whether, how and when the Conference of the parties should assess the effectiveness of the measures taken under the Convention to address the plastic waste contributing to marine plastic litter and microplastics and which further activities could possibly be conducted under the Convention in response to developments in scientific knowledge and environmental information related to plastic waste as a source of land pollution, marine plastic litter and microplastics. The Conference of the parties also invited parties and others to submit information on plastic waste almost exclusively consisting of one cured resin or condensation product and plastic waste almost exclusively consisting of one of the listed fluorinated polymer wastes, for consideration at its fifteenth meeting.
Furthermore, the Conference of the Parties adopted other decisions specifically addressing plastic wastes: Decisions BC-14/9 on cooperation with the World Customs Organization on the harmonized commodity description and coding system, BC-14/10 on national reporting, BC-14/18 on technical assistance, BC-14/19 on the Basel Convention Partnership Program, BC-14/21 on international cooperation and coordination and BC-14/23 on the clearing house mechanism for information exchange.
The greatest burden of plastic waste entering the sea is likely to arise where waste collection and management systems are ineffective
The rapidly increasing levels of plastic waste pose a serious global environmental problem that cuts across all aspects of sustainable development and impacts virtually every sector of society. Advancing the environmentally sound management (ESM) of plastic waste and controlling its transboundary movement (TBM) in line with the provisions of the Basel Convention therefore requires close cooperation and coordination among international organizations and other stakeholders.
In 2019, at its fourteenth meeting, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Basel Convention adopted two important decisions to address plastic waste: Decision BC-14/12 by which the COP amended Annexes II, VIII and IX to the Convention in relation to plastic waste, and decision BC-14/13 on further actions to address plastic waste. The COP requested the Secretariat through decision BC-14/21 among others to continue to work closely with other international organizations on activities related marine plastic litter and microplastics.
Plastic waste may contain various POPs, such as some brominated flame retardants and short-chain chlorinated paraffins. The leaching out of POPs from plastic particles may have significant adverse effect on the health of both terrestrial and marine wildlife. Plastic debris can also adsorb POPs such as PCBs, DDT and dioxins which, if ingested, exhibit a wide range of adverse chronic effects in marine organisms. The Stockholm Convention controls various POPs which have been used as additives, flame retardants, plasticizers in plastics or manufacture of fluoropolymers. Through Decision BC-14/13, the COP welcomed the work of the Stockholm Convention to eliminate or control the production or use of POPs in plastic products that may reduce the presence of such pollutants in plastics waste, thus contributing to reducing the risks associated with marine plastic litter and microplastics at the global level.
In 2019, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) adopted resolution 4/6, therein noting with concern that the high and rapidly increasing levels of marine litter, including plastic litter and microplastics, represent a serious environmental problem at a global scale. The resolution further stressed the importance of environmentally sound waste management and international cooperation for effectively preventing pollution from marine litter, among others. Through Decision BC-14/21, the COP requested the Executive Secretary to cooperate with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in fostering the implementation of UNEA resolutions related to the sound management of chemicals and waste, e.g. resolution 4/6 on marine plastic litter and microplastics.
The ad hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter and microplastics (AHEG) was established by UNEA in 2017 to further examine the barriers to and options for combating marine plastic litter and microplastic from all sources. The Secretariat is collaborating closely with the AHEG in delivering on these mandates. The Secretariat is also cooperating with other important UNEP activities and initiatives with linkages to plastic waste, including the following: Adopted at ICCM1 in 2006, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. The Secretariat participates as a stakeholder in the intercessional process considering the Strategic Approach and sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020; The Clean Seas Campaign was launched by UNEP in 2017 with the aim of engaging governments, the general public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution. The Campaign seeks to address the root-cause of marine litter by targeting the production and consumption of non-recoverable and single-use plastic; UNEP’s International Environmental Technology Centre focuses on effective and efficient waste management. Its work on plastic waste includes the “Single-use plastics: A roadmap for sustainability”; Following the recommendations contained in the Manila Declaration, the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) was launched in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The GPML seeks to protect human health and the global environment through the reduction and management of marine litter; The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans (RSCAPs) address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas by engaging neighboring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their common marine environment. The first Regional Seas Convention was the 1976 Barcelona Convention, an integral part of the Mediterranean Action Plan; The Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa Region (Abidjan Convention) provides an overarching legal framework for all marine-related programs in West, Central and Southern Africa.
In Para 3 of Decision BC-14/9, the COP requested the Secretariat to submit to the WCO a proposal for amending the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System to allow the identification of the various types of waste, including plastic waste.
The Secretariat is also cooperating with over 20 international bodies and initiatives with linkages to plastic waste in order to fulfill its mandate, such as the following: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Global Environment Facility (GEF),Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Health Organization (WHO),World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Inter-Organization Program for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC)...
Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments
The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP14, 29 April - 10 May 2019) adopted amendments to Annexes II, VIII and IX to the Convention with the objectives of enhancing the control of the transboundary movements of plastic waste and clarifying the scope of the Convention as it applies to such waste.
The amendment to Annex VIII, with the insertion of a new entry A3210, clarifies the scope of plastic wastes presumed to be hazardous and therefore subject to the PIC procedure. The amendment to Annex IX, with a new entry B3011 replacing existing entry B3010, clarifies the types of plastic wastes that are presumed to not be hazardous and, as such, not subject to the PIC procedure. The wastes listed in entry B3011 include: a group of cured resins, non-halogenated and fluorinated polymers, provided the waste is destined for recycling in an environmentally sound manner and almost free from contamination and other types of wastes; mixtures of plastic wastes consisting of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) provided they are destined for separate recycling of each material and in an environmentally sound manner, and almost free from contamination and other types of wastes.
The third amendment is the insertion of a new entry Y48 in Annex II which covers plastic waste, including mixtures of such wastes unless these are hazardous (as they would fall under A3210) or presumed to not be hazardous (as they would fall under B3011).
The new entries become effective as of 1 January 2021.
(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh III/2020)