A total of 187 nations — nearly every country in the world — agreed on May 10, 2019 to curb flow of plastic waste into poorer countries, the United Nations said.
The proposal was passed as an amendment  to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates the international movement of hazardous waste. Under the amended treaty, exporters — including the US which argued against the change — must first obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste, thus enabling the establishment of a process known as “prior informed consent”. The new rules will take a year to come into effect.
After China instituted a ban on foreign waste more than one year ago, an overwhelming amount of waste was rerouted to other developing countries, especially those in Southeast Asia. This amendment, proposed by Norway, can help to enable a better-regulated and more transparent trading market of plastic waste, as it provides countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand the right to refuse wastes they do not want.
The 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,” said David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director of the Center for International Environmental Law.
Moreover, according to a press release from major advocacy organizations, as US is not a party to the Basel Convention, it will be banned from shipping plastic waste to developing countries that are Basel parties but not part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.