An amendment to the Basel Convention regulating the cross-border movement of hazardous waste, proposed by Japan and Norway and unanimously adopted by the treay's signatories last week, effectively makes it difficult to export plastic waste to other countries and calls on nations to strengthen their domestic recycling and disposal capacities. The amendment, reportedly the first legally binding international framework to curb plastic waste, reflects the growing sense of alarm over the environmental hazards posed by such waste. As a major producer and consumer of single-use plastic products, Japan needs to step up its efforts to recycle the products and cut back on the use of disposable plastics.
The amount of plastic waste produced worldwide has continued to increase, hitting 300 million tons in 2015. While the volume of waste has multiplied by six times since the 1980s, only about 15 percent of it is recycled. Roughly 8 million tons of waste are believed to end up in the ocean each year, posing a serious threat to the marine ecosystem and, through the food chain, to human health.
Major industrialized nations have shipped the plastic waste that they cannot process to other, mainly developing, countries, where it is supposedly recycled. However, the countries that accepted it, including China, once the world's largest importer, have begun to either ban or restrict the import of plastic waste in recent years, raising fears that the plastic waste overflowing in many countries would pose an increasing danger to the environment and led to calls for international regulations on the transfer of plastic waste.