Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The EU will join international efforts to reduce hazardous waste and control the trade and illegal trafficking of toxic chemicals and waste at the upcoming Conferences of the Parties (COPs) in Geneva.
“From developing standards for managing plastic waste to better controlling the trade of hazardous chemicals, the decisions to be taken at the upcoming upcoming COPs will have a profound impact on the global management of chemicals and waste,” said Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, who will attend the high-level meetings from 1-12 May.
Sinkevičius’ announcement comes a couple of days after the European Environment Agency (EEA) urged EU countries to reduce pesticide use over concern that sales of harmful chemicals remain strong despite its effects on human health and biodiversity.
“Despite progress in some member states (…) much more needs to be done,” the EEA stated referring to the reduction of pesticide use.
UN Conventions & chemicals
The management of chemicals is currently regulated by the Rotterdam, the Stockholm, and Basel UN conventions. The Rotterdam Convention meeting will consider more strictly regulating imports and exports of seven specific chemicals, which forms part of the EU’s commitments under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability to reducing its exports of hazardous substances.
The Basel Convention will soon provide more detailed guidance on recent landmark decisions on the management and trade of plastics and electronic waste. Both of these rapidly growing waste streams are now subject to the controls of the Convention, allowing countries to decide on whether to allow intended movements of waste to and from their territories.
The Stockholm Convention is the only treaty of the three that eliminates or restricts the production and use of certain chemicals. It will consider proposals to list hazardous chemicals such as dechlorane plus, a flame retardant, UV-328, an ultraviolet filter used in plastics, and methoxychlor, a pesticide.
In a study conducted in Spain, Latvia, Hungary, Czech Republic and the Netherlands between 2014 and 2021, at least two pesticides were detected in the bodies of 84% of survey participants, the EEA said.
In 2020, the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy introduced two pesticide reduction targets: a 50% reduction in the use and risk of chemical pesticides and a 50% reduction in the use of more hazardous pesticides.
“Chemical waste is a ticking time bomb that threatens our health and our environment. We need to urgently address this issue by adopting stricter regulations, promoting innovation in waste management, and investing in sustainable technologies,” said MEP Maria Spyraki.
Recently, the Commission proposed a new law on the sustainable use of pesticides, which would require countries to set their own national reduction targets
The EU said it will also advocate for a legally binding instrument, addressing all stages of plastic cycle, in the second round of negotiations on a global treaty on plastics, taking place in Paris, in May 2023.
Plastic waste is increasing rapidly, doubling over the last twenty years, while only 9% is recycled globally. In 2019 alone, the world generated 53.6 megatonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste), only 17% of which was recorded as collected and recycled, according to the European Commission.
Moreover, up to 33% of EU soils are degraded, and the use of hazardous pesticides can have an adverse effect on all ecosystems, including soil.