Nearly all of the world’s countries have pledged to stop shipping hard-to-recycle plastic waste to poorer countries, The Guardian reports. The international plastic waste policy will help cut pollution and protect people and oceans.
The “historic” agreement was signed by 187 countries and states that exporting countries must get permission from developing countries before sending them their contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste.
Earlier this year, China stopped accepting recycling from the U.S, however, this led to plastic waste – from the food, beverage, fashion, technology, and healthcare industries – building up in developing countries. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives said that villages in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand had “turned into dumpsites over the course of a year.”
Following such reports, a two-week meeting was held that looked at the plastic waste and toxic chemicals threatening oceans and marine life. “Plastic debris clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and entangles and endangers wildlife,” The Guardian explains. “Less valuable and harder to recycle plastic is likely to end up discarded rather than turned into new products.”
Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program named plastic pollution an “epidemic.” Around 110 million tons of plastic pollutes our oceans and 80 to 90 percent of it comes from land-based sources, Payet said.
The legally binding agreement, which will be enforced in a year’s time, will make the global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, protecting people and the planet.
Rising public awareness about the impact of plastic on the planet is helping drive progress on the environmental issue, according to officials. Documentary films by natural historian Sir David Attenborough are partly to thank for this upped interest in the environment.
“It was those iconic images of the dead albatross chicks on the Pacific Islands with their stomachs open and all recognizable plastic items inside it, and most recently, it’s been when we discovered the nano-particles do cross the blood-brain barrier, and we were able to prove that plastic is in us,” Paul Rose, expedition leader for the National Geographic “pristine seas” expeditions, said in a statement.
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said the deal is important but “only goes part of the way.”
“What we – and the planet – need is a comprehensive treaty to tackle the global plastic crisis,” he said.