Geneva, 11 May 2019 – Decisions on plastic waste were taken today in Geneva, with around 180 governments adopting a series of decisions to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of chemicals and hazardous waste. “For businesses, a comprehensive agreement could reduce the complexity of the business, simplify reporting and decisively free up investment across the plastics value chain,” said Jesper Nielsen, head of social impact and sustainability practices in Western Europe, Africa and South America, Boston Consulting Group. Even larger animals are not immune to the effects of plastic consumption. This whale was found in a Thai canal while breathing and swimming. When rescuers tried to save the animal, he vomited five plastic bags and later died. During the necropsy, veterinarians found 80 bags of groceries and other plastic waste had the stomach of the clogged whale, so that marine animals could no longer digest the nutritious food. A UN plastic pollution treaty, in which governments commit to a coordinated policy and action framework, can help put the world on the path to a circular economy for plastics. “I am proud that the parties to the Basel Convention agreed this week in Geneva on a legally binding and comprehensive mechanism for the management of plastic waste,” said Rolph Payet, executive secretary for UN conventions in Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm, in a statement. Twenty-nine major global companies, including Amcor, Borealis, Danone, H-M, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Tesco, The Coca-Cola Company, Starbucks, Unilever and Woolworth, supported the request through a trade manifesto calling for a UN contract. The manifesto calls on governments to negotiate and agree on a new global agreement on plastic pollution and says, “There is no time to waste.” This is the first joint action by companies that calls on governments to adopt a treaty on plastic pollution.
The 1,400 representatives gathered in Geneva reached an agreement after 12 days of discussion on what Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), described as “one of the most pressing environmental problems in the world”.” The advent of plastic revolutionized all aspects of human existence; Plastics are found on the International Space Station, in medical facilities, in educational materials and in all jobs and livelihoods on the planet. Through rivers such as the Yangtze, Indus, Ganges, Pearl River and Mekong River, a lot of plastic enters marine habitats. These rivers pass through densely populated areas, with a lack of adequate waste management infrastructure. Here, a fisherman in the Philippines removes a fish and crab trap from the plastic-filled waters. Plastic waste, and in particular marine plastic waste, is now an environmental problem taking place all over the world. The ubiquitous cross-border movements of plastic waste and microplastics are increasingly a major concern, as their shelf life allows their particles to be stored for a long time. Although plastic is very durable and can be used for long-lived products such as furniture and pipes, about 50 percent go to disposable products, including disposable cutlery and six-piece rings that end up in the natural environment. Animals, like this penguin, are at risk of becoming entangled and dying.
To reach out to those who are calling for a comprehensive agreement, please sign the trade manifesto. Officials attributed this progress in part to the growing public awareness around the world – reinforced by documentaries by British naturalist David Attenborough and others – of the dangers of plastic pollution to marine life. This week, governments amended the Basel Convention to integrate plastic waste into a legally binding framework that makes global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, while ensuring better management.