Recovery funding should not go to waste

For immediate release: Brussels, 19 June 2020

The recovery plan, composed of a 750 billion “Next Generation EU” support package and a revised €1.1 trillion 7 year budget (2021-2027) is drawing much attention, with everyone trying to get a piece of the pie. It carries the risk of becoming a horse-trade.

 The plan should support fundamental systemic change rather than continue financing the same actors who are driving the current fragile and destructive system. 

Clear green conditionality has to be attached to any recovery funding, using the EU Taxonomy criteria as a basis. In line with the European Green Deal’s oath: ‘do no harm’, any activity that causes significant harm to the achievement of health and environmental objectives (the transition to the circular economy, climate change mitigation and pollution minimisation) should be deemed unsustainable and as such not eligible for recovery funding

Capital-intensive industries that cannot already function sustainably on their own or can only self-sustain by damaging our health and our environment, such as the petrochemicals and (single-use) plastic industry – should not be eligible for recovery funding. Similarly, end-of-pipe waste management solutions such as incineration and plastic-to-fuels should be excluded.

“EU leaders have a responsibility towards citizens to make sure that stimulus packages will support the shift to a toxic-free circular economy, the redesign of products, business models and systems, and support local and green jobs” says Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance. 

Also, while Rethink Plastic welcomes the fact that taxing plastic is back on the table, it still regrets that the contribution applies to non-recycled plastic packaging

“If taxation on plastic is to have a real impact on plastic proliferation and pollution, it should rather be set on virgin plastics resins to support reduction at source and bridge the price gap between recycled plastic and virgin plastic, the price of which has plummeted due to low oil prices” added Delphine Lévi Alvarès. 

Several global (Fast Moving Consumer Good) companies, which have committed to integrate recycled content in their products, have recently expressed support for taxation of virgin plastic resinsPutting people and the environment at the center of the recovery package is the only way to address the lack of resilience that the pandemic has brought to light and move forward.

ENDS

Press Contacts:
Agnese Marcon, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
news@rethinkplasticalliance.eu +32 (0) 456 078 038

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic Europe and Rethink Plastic alliance
delphine@rethinkplasticalliance.eu +32 (4) 78 71 26 33

Single Use Plastics Directive: NGOs call on Commission and EU countries to resist attempts to undermine separate collection of plastic bottles

Berlin/Brussels, 15 May 2020

European Environmental NGOs are expressing their concern about ongoing discussions on the implementation of the separate collection of single-use plastic bottles as regulated by the EU Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD).

The Directive ((EU) 2019/904) requires Member States to ensure that 90 percent of plastic bottles be collected as a separate waste stream by 2029 at the latest. In Austria and the Czech Republic, however, there are now discussions suggesting that this separate collection target could be met by including bottles from post-sorted residual waste.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany, DUH) and the Rethink Plastic alliance (RPa), both members of the global Break Free from Plastic (BFFP) movement, warn that misguided interpretation of the SUPD could dramatically undermine its main objectives, that is to reduce pollution from single-use plastic and support the transition towards a circular economy. The introduction of deposit return systems (DRS) can largely contribute to achieving these objectives.

“Plastic bottles are among the top items polluting European water bodies and beaches. This is why the introduction of deposit return systems all over Europe is particularly important. In Germany, the deposit on single-use beverage containers has had a drastic anti-littering effect. That is reflected by the very high collection rate of 98.5 percent. If plastic bottles were still collected via curbside collection, the collection rate would be considerably lower. In addition, pulling plastic bottles out of mixed packaging or residual waste would jeopardise all efforts to enable the desired bottle-to-bottle recycling. The required material quality cannot be achieved with those modes of collection, due to impurities and adhesions. It is alarming that certain stakeholder groups, for example in Austria, are trying to sabotage this step towards more high-quality recycling in Europe” says DUH Deputy Executive Director Barbara Metz.

Member States will only achieve the recycled content targets set in the Directive, if plastic bottles are collected as a clean, separate waste stream. By 2025, single-use PET bottles have to contain a minimum recycled content of 25 percent, and by 2030, all single-use plastic bottles must contain a minimum recycled content of 30 percent.

With the Plastic Strategy and the Single Use Plastics Directive, the EU has made an unprecedented commitment to reduce waste and pollution and protect our environment. DUH and the Rethink Plastic alliance therefore call on national governments to transpose and implement the legislation as it is intended, to reach maximum positive environmental impact.

“The European Commission and EU governments must resist attempts made by some interest groups to water down the Single Use Plastics Directive. Citizens across Europe have praised the new measures on reducing single-use plastics and have shown support for Deposit return systems, for recycling but also for reuse. DRS have successfully existed for many years in some EU countries like Germany and now others, such as Portugal, Latvia and Romania, are setting the course for their implementation, since DRS is the most effective way to ensure high collection of beverage containers and reduce pollution” says Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of the Rethink Plastic alliance and BFFP Europe.

In addition to their contribution to pollution reduction and meeting the targets laid down in the Single Use Plastics Directive, deposit return systems for single-use beverage containers have yet another crucial advantage: they can serve as an intermediate step towards more refillable beverage containers. Firstly, deposit systems for single-use and refillable beverage containers largely rely on the same infrastructure. Secondly, consumers are more likely to choose refillables over single-use beverage containers if they have to return both types of packaging to the same return points.

Compared to single-use beverage packaging, refillables cause less greenhouse gas emissions, protect resources and support the local economy.

ENDS

Further information:
Position Paper on the interpretation of separate collection targets, Reloop
Deposit Return Schemes Manifesto Zero Waste Europe with 90 signatories

Contacts
Barbara Metz, Deputy Executive Director, DUH
metz@duh.de +49 (0) 170 7686923

Henriette Schneider, Project Manager, DUH
h.schneider@duh.de +49 (0) 30 2400867-464

Press Contacts:
Agnese Marcon, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
news@rethinkplasticalliance.eu +32 (0) 456 078 038

Marlen Bachmann, Thomas Grafe, Press Officers, DUH
presse@duh.de +49 (0) 30 2400867-20

Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs, representing thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State. It is part of the Break Free From Plastic movement.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany, DUH)  is a recognised environmental and consumer protection organisation that campaigns at national and EU level. The organisation is engaged in energy and climate protection, circular economy, traffic and clean air, nature conservation, urban environmental protection and consumer protection. DUH is renowned for its role in uncovering the Diesel Scandal and its successful campaign for a deposit system for one-way beverage containers and a quantitative target for refillable beverage containers in Germany.

Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,900 organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organisations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision.

The new Circular Economy Action Plan promises to address plastic pollution but will concrete steps follow?

For immediate release – Brussels, 11 March 2020

New plans revealed today by the European Commission on plastic pollution, as part of its wider Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), which lists around 50 actions to tackle our resources and waste crises, are a step in the right direction but will only be effective if they are implemented with strong ambition. 

One of the most positive actions is the promise to develop new measures on making products more sustainable. The alliance welcomes this long-overdue legal framework, in particular the commitment to scale up reusable tableware, packaging and cutlery in food services. All the new laws on sustainable products should stimulate the redesign of products and distribution models and drive the transition towards toxic-free reusable products and service-based systems.

Prevention, reduction and reuse, despite being at the top of the EU waste hierarchy, have been overlooked for too long. We now welcome that they are rightly given priority for food services, but they must be at the core of all future concrete measures to foster the redesign of plastics and packaging, as well as their production and distribution systems. This is not only a condition for achieving a true, toxic-free circular economy, it is also necessary to deliver on the EU’s climate agenda” commented Justine Maillot, Policy Coordinator of the Rethink Plastic alliance. 

The alliance, however, remains cautious on the commitment by the European Commission to set a policy framework for biobased and biodegradable plastics. These plastics, which are too often pushed as a solution, are mostly applied as single-use materials with similar environmental impacts to conventional plastics, especially in the ocean.[1][2] Direct substitution of conventional plastics with bio-based and biodegradable plastics is purposefully confusing consumers and amounts to greenwashing.

While microplastics are highlighted as a focus area, it’s regretful that the action plan remains vague on the related concrete measures, going no further than the Plastics Strategy of early 2018. The alliance calls on the Commission to develop EU legislative measures to address pollution from all primary microplastics including pre-production plastic pellets, a major source of microplastics, along the plastic supply chain.[3]

The plan also highlights the role of economic instruments and investments, yet remains vague on detail. The alliance emphasises that these are essential to develop and scale-up solutions and must ensure support for new business models and systems based on prevention and reuse. The alliance is concerned that if investments are directed towards infrastructure for “new” plastic production as well as chemical recycling, this will simply extend business as usual into the future.

ENDS

Notes 

[1] Rethink Plastic Alliance Bioplastics Infographic 

[2] EC Research on Biodegradable, Oxodegradable and Compostable bags oberved in sea, air and soil

[3] A recent study shows that if best practices were put in place by producers, converters and transport companies across the supply chain, pellet loss could virtually be eliminated (95% reduction). Rethink Plastic and BreakFreeFromPlastic briefing on pellets available here

Press contacts

Justine Maillot, Policy Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance

justine@rethinkplasticalliance.eu 

+32 (0) 27 362 091 

Agnese Marcon, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance agnese.marcon@rethinkplasticalliance.eu  

+32 (0) 456 078 038 

Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs, representing thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State. It is part of the Break Free From Plastic movement.

Loophole & delays undermine microplastics restriction

Brussels 14th November 2019

 

There are major concerns that proposed limitations to the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) restriction on intentionally added microplastics act as loopholes to satisfy industry, by delaying implementation and creating derogations for biodegradable plastics. Comments from the industry lobby in the ECHA public consultation on microplastics are aimed at undermining the core purpose of the restriction rather than contributing to meaningfully addressing the issue of microplastic pollution.

 

The latest European Chemicals Agency proposal to restrict all intentionally added microplastics has generally received strong support from NGOs across many sectors. In letters to national governments, 32 NGOs together with the #breakfreefromplastic movement of more than 1,800 organisations, and the Rethink Plastic alliance, reiterated this support, while raising major concerns on derogations and unnecessary delays in a letter addressed to national environment ministers and relevant agencies on Tuesday. They call on the Commission and Member States to address these concerns and move the restriction process forward without delays or derogations.

 

Once released in the environment, microplastics are practically impossible to remove, and are expected to be present in the environment for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years, with severe and well documented effects on the environment. The scientific data gathered by ECHA in the report backing the need for a restriction is unequivocal: microplastics constitute a serious risk to the environment, and are a source of pollution that is currently, and undeniably, out of control.

 

In particular proposed derogations for allegedly biodegradable microplastics and the extended transitional periods are highlighted as undermining the prevention of microplastic pollution, and lacking in scientific basis.

 

Elise Vitali, Chemicals Project Officer at the European Environmental Bureau said

“The restriction proposal is a big step forward. But if passed as it stands, this plan would seriously jeopardise the EU’s reputation as a leader in the fight against plastic pollution. It is a matter of urgency that these unjustifiable loopholes are closed, and that the restrictions are applied to all intentional microplastics in a concise timeframe.”

 

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement in Europe and of the Rethink Plastic alliance said

“It is high time the industry stops bringing biodegradability claims to obtain exemptions and create loopholes in much needed restrictions, be it on single-use plastics or in this case on microplastics added to products. If it is even slightly serious about contributing to solving the plastic crisis, the industry should rather focus its efforts on redesigning and removing all intentionally added microplastics from Industry products”.

***

 

NOTES
– Read the full letter sent to EU ENVI Committee members and REACH competent authorities
– Read NGOs Position For An Impactful Restriction Of Microplastics
ECHA Annex XV Restriction Report Proposal for a Restriction on Intentionally Added Microplastics

 

Press Contacts:

Matt Franklin
European Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic
matt@breakfreefromplastic.org – +44 7923 37 38 31

Alice Bernard
Chemicals Lawyer, Client Earth
ABernard@clientearth.org – 0032 (0)2 808 8015

Plastic Atlas release demonstrates scale of plastic pollution crisis & solutions for a zero waste future

6 November 2019, Brussels

Today, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Break Free From Plastic movement published the international English edition of the Plastic Atlas, holding launch events in Brussels, Washington D.C. and Manila. 

05 Nov 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Plastic Atlas 2019 Pre-Launch, organized by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

05 Nov 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Plastic Atlas 2019 Pre-Launch, organized by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

05 Nov 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Plastic Atlas 2019 Pre-Launch, organized by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

05 Nov 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Plastic Atlas 2019 Pre-Launch, organized by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

05 Nov 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Plastic Atlas 2019 Pre-Launch, organized by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

05 Nov 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Plastic Atlas 2019 Pre-Launch, organized by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. © Bernal Revert/ BR&U

The Plastic Atlas contains more than 49 detailed infographics covering a broad range of topics regarding the plastic pollution crisis looking along the entire value chain of plastic. The atlas highlights the scale of the crisis, and the global impacts of plastic production, consumption and disposal on other key global challenges such as human health and climate change.

It also outlines the role of plastic for key industrial sectors such as agriculture and tourism and describes the corporate interests and drivers behind the plastic crisis.

Finally, the Plastic Atlas presents an overview of key anti-plastic regulations, zero waste solutions and a snapshot of the growing global movement working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

Executive Vice-President-designate for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans stated: “The European Union has made an important first step by banning some of the most polluting single use plastic products in Europe. We now need to continue our efforts to design products for reuse, improve waste management and recycling, and move towards a zero-pollution economic model. Valuable resources must be retained and recycled material used for making new products, not shipped abroad or sent up in smoke through an incinerator.

Bas Eickhout, Vice-Chair of the EP-Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (The Greens/EFA) and co-host of the Plastic-Atlas launch pointed out: “This plastic atlas shows the painful reality behind our plastic addiction, and there is no excuse to wait with the implementation of policies to cure it. Let me name a few: Bans on needless use of plastic. Strict eco-design rules to ensure that we use as little plastic as possible in the products that we make. New legislation to prevent the leakage of plastic pellets in our environment. Mandatory use of recycled instead of virgin plastic. And of course: a plastic tax. It’s time to walk the walk.”

Break Free From Plastic European Coordinator, Delphine Lévi Alvarès added: “Europe plays a significant role in the plastic pollution crisis at almost every juncture. From the export of low-grade plastic waste to the global south, where Europe avoids taking responsibility for dealing with the waste that we create, to the European corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Unilever which are again and again cited as the top global producers of branded plastic pollution. Europe’s role in this crisis is ubiquitous. But Europe also has great potential to tackle plastic pollution at source, notably by enacting strong policies. This is the only way to achieve a circular economy and go above and beyond the Paris Agreement commitments.”

Heinrich Böll Foundation President Barbara Unmüßig has called for global action to address the crisis at source: “A ban on single-use plastics makes sense but will not be sufficient to end one of the biggest environmental crises of the planet. Plastics began as a waste product of the petrochemical industry. Today, ExxonMobil, BASF, Eni, INEOS, and Dow are the biggest plastic producers worldwide with sales totaling 420 billion Euros per year. Instead of cutting down on this part of the business they have clear targets to increase plastic production over the coming years. The unlimited availability of cheap oil and gas as raw materials for plastic production prevents effective recycling strategies and blocks a real circular economy. Regional and global politics must hold the plastic industry accountable and define a clear and strict framework for the reduction of overall plastic production and consumption. However, circular-economy strategies are needed to make a lasting impact.”

Download the full Plastic Atlas

#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,800 organisations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organisations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation, as part of the Green political movement, is a catalyst for Green visions and projects, a think tank for policy reform, and an international network. We globally support and cooperate with partners promoting Democracy, human rights, socio-ecological transformation and gender justice.

***

ENDS

Press Contacts
Agnese Marcon, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
agnese.marcon@rethinkplasticalliance.eu, +32 (0) 456 078 038

New report shows how EU countries can quit single-use plastics and switch to reusables 

Brussels, October 15 – Reusable alternatives to wasteful single-use plastics are on the rise across Europe, and national governments have the tools at their disposal to boost them and slash plastic pollution, according to a new report released today by Break Free From Plastic Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance.

 

The Reusable solutions: how governments can help stop single-use plastic pollution report shows how a mixture of public and private initiatives are slashing the consumption of single-use plastic packaging and products across Europe. They include:

 

  • The reusable cup scheme ‘ReCup’ is used by almost 3,000 vendors in over 450 cities in Germany. Citizens pay a €1 deposit per cup, which is refunded when they are returned to a vendor. Half a million of these cups are in circulation, and each can be reused up to 500 times.
  • 1.5 tonnes of food packaging waste are saved per year in Brussels, where more than 1,000 members use “Tiffin” reusable steel takeaway boxes. This also saves €20,000 in the purchase of disposable containers.
  • Deposit return schemes for reuse can work: in Germany’s system 99% of reusable glass bottles are returned, meaning they are cleaned and refilled up to 50 times.

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe and co-author of the report, said “If governments switched to reusable products instead of wasteful single-use plastics, they would slash plastic pollution, save local authorities money for collection and waste cleanup, and create local jobs.”

 

Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe and co-author of the report said: “Benefits of reuse systems are countless, yet such zero waste business models encounter many challenges to get their way through the current market dominated by single-use. Policy intervention is key to allowing such positive change to be rolled out across the EU and become the norm.”

 

The report calls on national governments to scale up these successes across Europe by building on the EU’s single-use plastics laws, including by:

  • – Passing laws to oblige restaurants to use reusable cutlery, plates and cups for onsite consumption
  • – Setting consumption reduction targets for single-use plastic cups and food containers of 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030
  • – Introducing deposit return scheme (DRS) policies for reusable items including beverage bottles, cups and food containers
  • – Taxing single-use plastics to quickly force businesses to find alternatives

 

***

[1] Full report here: “Reusable solutions: how governments can help stop single-use plastic pollution”

[2] rethinkplasticalliance.eu/news/european-parliament-takes-historic-stand-against-single-use-plastic-pollution/ 

 

For more information, please contact: 

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, meadhbh.bolger@foeeurope.org |  +32 (0) 2 893 1016

Paul Hallows, communications officer at Friends of the Earth Europe, paul.hallows@foeeurope.org | +32 2 893 10 10

EU court confirms plastics chemical BPA as substance of ‘very high concern’

Luxembourg, Thursday 11th July 2019

 

The General Court of the EU has confirmed that bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used to make plastics – must be listed as a substance of ‘very high concern’ on account of its properties that are toxic for human reproduction.

 

The Court upheld a previous decision by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to identify the substance, which has been used in the manufacture of plastic products such as water bottles, food containers and receipts. BPA is already banned in the EU for some products – such as baby bottles – due to concerns about its effects on the hormonal and reproductive system.

 

ClientEarth intervened before the Court to support ECHA’s decision to officially identify Bisphenol A as a substance toxic for reproduction, and therefore of high concern.

 

Apolline Roger, Legal and Policy Advisor at ClientEarth said: “This case was not about whether bisphenol A is toxic for reproduction or not – there is no doubt about the dangers this substance poses for humans and the environment”.

 

This case was about industry lobby group PlasticsEurope attempting to fight the obligation of its members that sell or use BPA to tell their supply chain and consumers about its dangers.We are glad that the Court reminded them that information is a precondition to environmental and health protection, even for substances like BPA, that are used and supposed to be fully consumed in the production process.

 

PlasticsEurope also challenged before the Court the identification of bisphenol A as an endocrine disruptor with impact on health in a second legal case, and with impact on the environment in a third case.

 

The judgement of the second case is expected in mid-September. The hearing for the third is excepted to be around October. In all three cases, ClientEarth acted as intervener – supporting the defendant in its defence against PlasticsEurope’s challenge before the EU Courts.

 

***

 

PRESS CONTACTS:

Apolline Roger, Chemicals Project Lead, Law and Policy Advisor, ClientEarth

t. +32 (0) 28 08 3471 | ARoger@clientearth.org

 

 

EU’s move to ban microplastics under attack from chemicals industry

Brussels, 3 June 2019 – The recent European move to reduce microplastics is facing attack by the chemicals industry.

The Rethink Plastic alliance supports the European Chemical Agency (ECHA)’s proposal to restrict microplastics intentionally added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, medical devices and other products. As expert committees are meeting tomorrow to discuss the draft restriction, RPa members will be following these discussions closely, and contributing with the help of a scientific expert at the meeting.

According to ECHA, every year, 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of intentionally added microplastics leak into the environment, where they accumulate and persist for thousands of years, posing a threat to a wide range of organisms including invertebrates, fish, marine reptiles, birds and cetaceans.

Despite the breadth of the environmental disaster caused by microplastics, the biggest chemical industry lobby in Brussels, CEFIC, has deemed this proposal as “too broad”, claiming ECHA had exceeded its competence in drafting it.

On behalf of Rethink Plastic, ClientEarth’s lawyer Lara Fornabaio said: “ECHA concluded, on the basis of a thorough scientific assessment, that the risks derived from the release of microplastics into the environment are not adequately controlled and this justifies a restriction under REACH.”

Taking part in a public consultation – which will continue till September – NGOs have submitted their comments, supporting the scope of the proposal, while suggesting ways to improve the effectiveness of the restriction. NGOs have presented further evidence on the adverse effects of microplastic occurrence in the environment, and have warned that this proposal is granting unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors.

Fornabaio added: “This restriction proposal is a significant step forward to address plastic pollution and it should be broadly supported. We call on companies, which have chosen to invest in alternatives to microplastics, to participate to the public consultation, providing evidence that the shift towards safer alternatives is already possible.

We also call on other organisations to submit their comments. Together, we must create a strong front against every attempt to undermine this proposal.”

Once the opinion of the scientific committees of ECHA is adopted early 2020, the file will go back to the Commission, who will have to propose the final text of the restriction to EU governments before the restriction can finally become the law.

***

PRESS CONTACTS:

Lara Fornabaio, Chemicals, Law and Policy Advisor, ClientEarth

+32 28 08 3471  |  LFornabaio@clientearth.org

Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance

+32 2 736 20 91  |  roberta@rethinkplasticalliance.eu

UN decide to control global plastic waste dumping

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAY 10, 2019

Geneva, Switzerland — Today, 187 countries took a major step forward in curbing the plastic waste crisis by adding plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that controls the movement of hazardous waste from one country to another. The amendments require exporters to obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste, providing an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.

After China banned imports of most plastic waste in 2018, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, have received a huge influx of contaminated and mixed plastic wastes that are difficult or even impossible to recycle. Norway’s proposed amendments to the Basel Convention provides countries the right to refuse unwanted or unmanageable plastic waste.

The decision reflects a growing recognition around the world of the toxic impacts of plastic and the plastic waste trade. The majority of countries expressed their support for the proposal and over one million people globally signed two public petitions from Avaaz and SumOfUs. Yet even amidst this overwhelming support, there were a few vocal outliers who opposed listing plastic under Annex II of the Basel Convention. These included the United States, the largest exporter of plastic waste in the world; the American Chemistry Council, a prominent petrochemical industry lobbying group; and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a business association largely comprised of waste brokers. As the United States is not a party to the Basel Convention, it will be banned from trading plastic waste with developing countries that are Basel Parties but not part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “Today’s decision demonstrates that countries are finally catching up with the urgency and magnitude of the plastic pollution issue and shows what ambitious international leadership looks like. Plastic pollution in general and plastic waste in particular remain a major threat to people and the planet, but we are encouraged by the decision of the Basel Convention as we look to the future bold decisions that will be needed to tackle plastic pollution at its roots, starting with reducing production.”
Contact: David Azoulay, +41 78 75 78 756, dazoulay@ciel.org

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free from Plastic: “This is a crucial first step towards stopping the use of developing countries as a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, especially those coming from rich nations. Countries at the receiving end of mixed and unsorted plastic waste from foreign sources now have the right to refuse these problematic shipments, in turn compelling source countries to ensure exports of clean, recyclable plastics only. Recycling will not be enough, however.  Ultimately, production of plastics has to be significantly curtailed to effectively resolve the plastic pollution crisis.”
Contact: Von Hernandez, +63 9175263050, vonhernandez (Skype)

Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center: “Recycling is supposed to be part of the solution, this legislation will help prevent it from being a source of pollution. False claims by the plastic industry about plastic recycling resulted in a complete disaster for communities and ecosystems around the globe. This legislation raises the bar for plastic recycling which is good for people and the planet, and will help restore consumer confidence that recycling is still the right thing to do.”
Contact: Martin Bourque, martin@ecologycenter.org

Mageswari Sangaralingam, Research Officer, Friends of the Earth Malaysia: “Controls on the plastic waste trade are much needed now to curb dumping of waste in the Global South. The inclusion of prior informed consent is a step towards addressing the issues of the plastic waste trade and pollution crisis. Recycling is not enough, we need to break free from plastic.”
Contact: Mageswari Sangaralingam, +60128782706, magesling@gmail.com

Dr Tadesse Amera, CoChair, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) (Ethiopia): “Africa knows a lot about waste dumping due to our experience with e-waste. This decision will help prevent the continent from becoming the next target of plastic waste dumping after Asia closes its doors.”
Contact: Tadesse Amera, +251911243030 (phone/whatsapp), tadesseamera@ipen.org

Prigi Arisandi, Founder, Ecoton (Indonesia): “We hope these Convention amendments will reduce marine litter — but on the ground in Indonesia we will continue monitoring the waste trade, and pushing our government to properly manage imported plastics. We call on exporting countries to respect their obligation not to dump their rubbish in Global South countries and our government to strictly enforce restrictions and strengthen our custom controls.”
Contact: Prigi Arisandi, +62 8175033042, prigi@ecoton.or.id

Yuyun Ismawati, Co-founder, BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation: “This amendment could be a game changer and force every country to set a higher standard of responsible plastic waste management. Toxic plastics disposed by rich communities in other countries will no longer become the burden of poor communities.”
Contact: Yuyun Ismawati, +447583768707, yuyun@balifokus.asia

Sirine Rached, Global Policy Advocate, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA): “It’s only fair that countries should have the right to refuse plastic pollution shipped to their borders. China had raised the ambition, arguing for countries to have the right to refuse virtually all plastic waste imports, but the final result was a compromise. Since the onslaught of plastic dumping will continue for a year until the measures come into effect, GAIA calls on countries to protect themselves from global plastic waste dumping by banning dirty plastic imports in national law. Countries can tackle the plastic pollution problem while protecting the climate, by focusing on reducing plastics and shifting to Zero Waste systems free from dirty technologies like incineration or plastic-to-fuel.”
Contact: Sirine Rached, +33 6 76 90 02 80, sirine@no-burn.org

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network (BAN): “Today we have taken a major first step to stem the tide of plastic waste now flowing from the rich developed countries to developing countries in Africa and Asia, all in the name of “recycling,” but causing massive and harmful pollution, both on land and in the sea. A true circular economy was never meant to circulate pollution around the globe. It can only be achieved by eliminating negative externalities and not just pushing them off to developing countries.”
Contact: Jim Puckett, jpuckett@ban.org

Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA): “The Basel amendments are a critical pillar of an emerging global architecture to address plastic pollution. Other international bodies must now do their part, including ambitious measures under the IMO and ultimately a new legally binding UN treaty. The EU was a vocal and active supporter of the Basel amendments, proposing to increase ambition so that only the cleanest of clean plastic waste would not be subject to notification. The EU is not only leading by example but taking its Plastics Strategy to the international level.”
Contact: Tim Grabiel, +33 6 32 76 77 04, tgrabiel@gmail.com