On Friday the Basel Convention was signed. A year or so ago China unilaterally announced it was going to stop taking our plastic waste. By ‘our’ I mean the West’s plastic waste. I’m not criticising the Chinese at all. Why should they take our low grade plastic waste? However this led to a problem. What to do with it all? The recycling facilities in most Western countries were not up to taking it. This is hardly a surprise. If they were why would we ship it there? (As an aside I’ve read that most containers going to China are empty apart from waste since there is so little they want to buy from us. This Trump might want to consider with his trade war.) The obvious solution is ship the waste to other developing countries. Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have taken it and there have been reports that its ended up ruining pristine sites.
The Basel Convention does not stop the export of such waste. It does stop states simply shipping and forgetting about it. This is a very important treaty. It will gradually stop the export of waste and mean that we have to take responsibility for it ourselves which is the morally right thing to. It should be added that in doing so there are jobs to be created in the circular economy. 187 countries have signed the Basel Convention. The US did not, surprise surprise sign, but is bound by its rules.