100 governments attempt to protect health and environment from plastic waste

Experts from 100 governments meeting in Geneva have adopted a set of technical guidelines designed to promote environmentally sound management of plastic wastes. The guidelines include issues such as sorting for mechanical recycling, health and safety, shipping and transport, feedstock recycling, compaction and energy recovery.


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There is growing concern that in many developing countries there is a lack of necessary legislation and facilities for coping with the dramatic growth in plastics waste, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In many of these countries, plastics are being disposed of through open and uncontrolled burning and landfilling, the former releasing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) into the air.

Bangladesh and South Africa have both recently taken steps to ban plastic carrier bags because of the problems that they cause, including blocking up waterways and preventing the drainage of floodwater (see related story and related story).

However, there is huge potential for increasing re-use and recycling, says the UNEP.

“Like many industrial products, plastics pose risks to human health and the natural environment that can be reduced through recycling, re-use, and rigorous disposal procedures,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “These new guidelines demonstrate that the Basel Convention is playing a lead role in promoting environmentally sustainable development.”

The new guidelines have been adopted under the auspices of the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, originally adopted in March 1989 after a series of notorious ‘toxic cargoes’ from industrialised countries drew public attention to the dumping of hazardous wastes in developing and eastern European countries.

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