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Historic Agreement on Plastic Pollution Reached by 180+ Countries Without the U.S.
The agreement was reached Friday after a two-week meeting of the Conferences of Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions in Geneva. It took the form of an amendment to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal, which is backed by 187 countries excluding the U.S. More than 180 governments agreed to amend the convention to include plastic waste and improve the regulation of its trade.
"Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world's most pressing environmental issues, and the fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high," UN Environment's Executive Secretary of the three conventions Rolph Payet said in a press release.
#BeatPlasticPollution for #CleanSeas with @brsmeas— UN Environment (@UNEnvironment) May 12, 2019
Governments have amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent & better regulated. 👏👏👏 https://t.co/UPGsDfIMYy
The agreement comes amidst growing awareness of the proliferation of plastic in the environment. There are now 100 million tonnes (approximately 110 million U.S. tons) of plastic in the oceans, and 80 to 90 percent of it comes from land, UN Environment said.
Payet told the Associated Press that the agreement was "historic" because it is "legally binding." It also moved remarkably quickly from proposal to agreement for a UN accord.
"They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures," he said.
The agreement requires countries to monitor the movement of plastic shipped outside their territories. It also addresses the problem of developed countries sending unmanageable amounts of plastic waste to private waste-handling companies in the developing world without the consent of their governments, The Guardian explained. Now, importing countries will have the ability to say yes or no to more waste. That means the decision will still impact the U.S., since it will now have to ask permission before sending waste to most countries, CNN reported.
"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," Break Free from Plastic global coordinator Von Hernandez said, as CNN reported. "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."
🚨BREAKING🚨: UN decides to control global plastic waste dumping.— breakfreefromplastic (@brkfreeplastic) May 10, 2019
A HUGE moment in the fight against #plasticpollution.https://t.co/jH1t42Vv1a#breakfreefromplastic #cleanplanethealthypeople pic.twitter.com/7x1q8qQFBr
The U.S., which is the top exporter of plastic waste according to Break Free From Plastic, argued against the deal during the meeting, though it was not able to vote. It said the agreement would affect the trade of plastic waste in ways that officials did not appreciate, The Guardian reported.
After China stopped accepting plastic recycling imports, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia) said that villages in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia were "turned into dumpsites over the course of a year," according to The Guardian.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jennifer Molidor, PhD
Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.
Trump Makes Strange Claim About Water Efficient Toilets: 'People Are Flushing Toilets 10 Times, 15 Times'
President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.
By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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