The 2019 amendments of the Basel Convention, introducing new and stronger, legally binding international control on the transboundary movements of certain types of plastic wastes, are translated into Norwegian law, just in time for the 1 January 2021 implementation deadline. The new regulatory regime will facilitate government control with environmentally sound management conditions of plastic waste.
Norway proposed these amendments in 2019. The Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn states, “It is very important that we gain better control of the environmental conditions of this international trade. Unregulated trade in plastic waste globally has caused major problems to human health and the environment, especially in developing countries. The new international regime also reduces the risks of discharge of plastic litter and microplastics to the oceans.”
The essence of the new regulatory regime is the introduction of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure under the Basel Convention to plastic waste that is mixed, polluted and generally of little recycling value. The procedure requires the exporter to submit documentation to its national authorities proving the existence of a contract with a recipient in the importing country, ensuring that the waste will be subject to environmentally sound management at its destination. The corresponding authorities in the importing country may approve of the transport, deny import or set specific conditions. The exporting country shall not allow the transport to proceed before the importing country has given its consent. This ensures that the waste is not sent to an unknown destiny. If anything goes wrong, the exporter has a duty to re-import.
Plastic waste that is suitable for recycling may be exported without going through the PIC procedure. The Basel amendments outline in detail how to distinguish between waste inside and outside of the control category.
The decision to amend the Basel Convention was made at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention. The Basel Convention is a multilateral environmental agreement on waste and in particular, transboundary transport of waste. The Convention entered into force in 1992 and has 188 Parties. The US is not a Party.
Technically, the translation of the Basel amendments on plastic waste into Norwegian law is made by Norway accepting, as an EEA country, the revised EU regulation on transboundary transports of waste implementing the plastic amendments. The revised EU regulation is stricter than the Basel Convention in one direction: The EU introduces a ban on exports of Basel-regulated plastic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries. Norway will adopt the same regime.
The result of the new rules will be an increase in the amount of plastic that will need consent from the national authorities before it may be exported. However, Norwegian exports of plastic waste at present are not extensive. A main category is plastic waste from households. This waste is already subject to the PIC procedure when exported from Norway. Overall, the new regime will make it easier for the environmental authorities as well as private enterprises to be ensured that plastic waste that represent an environmental risk is not mismanaged. The fact that plastic waste suited for recycling does not require prior informed consent procedures will hopefully stimulate increased sorting of plastic waste into cleaner fractions before export, and thus support increased recycling rates and a more circular economy for plastics globally.
The Norwegian Environment Agency is responsible for a 4-week public consultation on the revised regulation, from 10 November 2020.
The revised regulation shall enter into force as Norwegian law 1 January 2021.