Cooperation with others

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. Recognizing the importance of enhanced cooperation in tackling 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.

Synergies with the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

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, such as:

  • Brominated diphenyl ethers
  • Hexabromocyclododecane
  • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF)
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds

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.

Cooperation with UNEP on activities related to plastic wastes, marine plastic litter and microplastics

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. The Assembly reiterated its invitation to regional and international organizations and conventions to increase their action to prevent and reduce marine litter, including plastic litter and microplastics, and the harmful effects thereof and, where appropriate, coordinate such action to achieve that end. Through decision BC-14/21, the COP requested the Executive Secretary to cooperate with the United Nations Environment Programme (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. Among others, the AHEG is taking stock of existing activities and action to reduce marine plastic litter and microplastics, identify technical and financial resources or mechanisms for supporting countries in this respect, encourage relevant partnerships, and analyze the effectiveness of existing and potential response options and activities. The Secretariat is collaborating closely with the AHEG in delivering on these mandates. Documentation on the third meeting of the AHEG, held on 18-22 November 2019 in Bangkok, is available here.

The Secretariat is also cooperating with other important UNEP activities and initiatives with linkages to plastic waste, including the following:

Cooperation with the World Customs Organization (WCO)

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. Further information on the harmonized system codes for wastes and related work is available here.

Cooperation with other international bodies and initiatives

The Secretariat is also cooperating with a large range of other international bodies and initiatives with linkages to plastic waste in order to fulfil its mandate, such as the following:

Another important partner is the Arctic Council, the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Plastic waste and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 SDGs, which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. UNEA resolution 4/6 stressed the importance of the prevention and reduction of marine litter, including plastic litter and microplastics, from both land and sea-based sources, for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

The ESM of plastic waste cuts across the SDGs and is directly linked to the achievement of various Goals and targets. Some of the particularly relevant Goals and targets are shown below. Less directly visible linkages also exist with many other global challenges and related SDGs. For example, the production of plastic is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The measures taken under the Basel Convention to address plastic waste are therefore significant contributions to achieving the SDGs.

SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Target 3.9: By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.

SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Target 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.

SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.

SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production.

Target 12.4: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.

SDG 14: Conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Target 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reducing marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests.

Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.

Through decision BC-14/21, the COP to the Basel Convention joined UNEA in emphasizing the need for urgent and resolute action to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on matters related to the sound management of chemicals and waste, including through relevant improvements to the current international framework for the sound management of chemicals and waste. The COP further called upon all Parties and other stakeholders to intensify and prioritize efforts on the sound management of chemicals and waste towards the achievement by 2020 of target 12.4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including through technical assistance and capacity building, to enable Parties to meet the relevant goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda as soon as possible.