New rules on plastic waste exports

Country representatives voted to add plastic waste to the scope of the Basel Convention, which regulates the movement of waste between countries.

The adopted amendments require exporting countries to get a prior consent from receiving countries before exporting any plastics that can have different qualities and level of cleanness.

The agreement was reached at the UN meeting in Geneva on the 10th of May 2019 and will take effect in January 2021.

Plastic waste pollution – an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic – is found in the oceans. In January 2018, China introduced a ban on waste imports. Plastic waste was quickly diverted to other countries in Southeast Asia that also began to restrict imports.

The EU is the world’s largest plastic garbage exporter and Japan is third; and both backed the Norwegian initiative of the amendments. The US is the second-largest. But the US isn’t a party to the convention, unlike 187 other countries. The US can still strike bilateral or regional deals with importing countries that are parties to the Basel Convention, but these will still have to apply Basel environmental standards.

ESC is discussing with members and cooperates with the European Commission to see the best ways to adhere to legislation.