AP

Landmark UN Plastic Waste Pact Gets Approved But Not By US

May 11, 2019, 9:33 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:09 pm
MAJALAYA, JAVA, INDONESIA - AUGUST 28: Plastic trash lies by the side of a small stream which drains into the Citarum River August 28, 2018 outside Majalaya, Java, Indonesia. Despite its being named the worlds most polluted river by the World Bank, around 28 million people in Indonesia depend on the Citarum River for irrigation, electricity, as well as nearly 80 percent of the capital city's water supply. Based on reports, more than 20,000 tons of waste and 340,000 tons of wastewater are disposed of directly into the waterways of the third-biggest river in Java everyday from thousands of textile factories, killing nearly 60 percent of the rivers fish species and causing health problems for people living along the polluted river. In recent years, the Indonesian government has vowed to clean the Citarum river as studies from environmental groups had found that levels of lead in the Citarum River reached 1,000 times worse than the U.S. standards for drinking water, but the problem has persisted due to the lack of coordination, maintenance and enforcement. (Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images)

GENEVA (AP) — Nearly every country in the world has agreed upon a legally binding framework to reduce the pollution from plastic waste except for the United States, U.N. environmental officials say.

An agreement on tracking thousands of types of plastic waste emerged Friday at the end of a two-week meeting of U.N.-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals.

Discarded plastic clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and rivers and entangles wildlife, sometimes with deadly results .

Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the “historic” agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

The deal affects products used in a broad array of industries, such as health care, technology, aerospace, fashion, food and beverages.

“It’s sending a very strong political signal to the rest of the world — to the private sector, to the consumer market — that we need to do something,” Payet said. “Countries have decided to do something which will translate into real action on the ground.”

Countries will have to figure out their own ways of adhering to the accord, Payet said. Even the few countries that did not sign it, like the United States, could be affected by the accord when they ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.

Payet credited Norway for leading the initiative, which first was presented in September. The time from that proposal to the approval of a deal set a blistering pace by traditional U.N. standards for such an accord.

The framework “is historic in the sense that it is legally binding,” Payet said. “They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures.”

The agreement is likely to lead to customs agents being on the lookout for electronic waste or other types of potentially hazardous waste more than before.

“There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for the export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said.

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Landmark UN Plastic Waste Pact Gets Approved But Not By US