Basel Convention’s Plastic Waste Amendments become mandatory for 186 States

1st January 2021: Geneva, Switzerland

Plastic pollution is a growing global concern. Today, the world’s first global legally-binding measures on curbing plastic waste become effective for 186 States[1].

Unanimously agreed at the breakthrough May 2019 Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, the Plastic Waste Amendments clarify the way plastic waste is internationally traded, bringing additional types of plastic waste into the existing control mechanism known as the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure. The Amendments also specify measures to support implementation, especially by developing countries.

Increased transparency, traceability, and sharing of information will make enforcement more effective, curbing the illegal dumping of plastic waste in countries not wishing to receive such waste or lacking the capabilities for environmentally sound waste management. This new regime also provides a powerful incentive for the private sector, governments and other stakeholders to creating enabling environments and technologies for recycling and pressure to reduce the generation of plastic waste. Moreover, it will help create new jobs and economic opportunities, including by incentivizing innovation, such as in the design of sustainable alternatives and the phase-out of toxic plastic additives.

The growth of plastics production since the mid-20th century has substantially outpaced any other manufactured material, resulting in a corresponding increase in plastic waste. Approximately 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste have been generated since 1950, of which 12 per cent has been incinerated, less than 10 per cent recycled and nearly 80 per cent either discarded or landfilled[2].

The Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, Rolph Payet, commented that “the global community has demonstrated its commitment to tackle plastic waste, and today is truly a landmark date for efforts to protect human health and the environment from hazardous waste. For 186 States around the world, the days of indiscriminate dumping of plastic waste are over. We in the BRS Secretariat are proud to have helped Parties achieve this milestone, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with them and all stakeholders to ensure effective implementation, including through flagship technical assistance and capacity development projects funded by the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.”

To help operationalise the Amendments, a string of additional steps have been taken by the Conference of the Parties, including establishing the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Partnership (PWP) that currently has more than 100 members from government, civil society and the private sector, and four project groups through which pilot projects and other activities, including public awareness and outreach, are implemented. For more on the PWP see:  


The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environment treaty on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 188 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as hazardous based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as three types of waste defined as “other wastes”, namely household waste, residues arising from the incineration of household wastes ash and certain plastic wastes requiring special consideration. For more info see

At the heart of the Basel Convention is a regulatory system to control transboundary movements of covered hazardous and other wastes, through a Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. The Convention also offers avenues for all Parties to take collective action towards minimising plastic waste generation at source and promoting environmentally sound management. The last meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP), 29 April to 10 May 2019 in Geneva, in addition to its decision to amend the Annexes to the Convention as they relate to plastic wastes which become effective on 1 January 2021, decided upon a range of further actions to better address plastic wastes, including the establishment of a new Partnership on Plastic Waste.[3] More on plastic waste here:  

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, or BRS Secretariat, supports Parties implement the three leading multilateral environment agreements governing chemicals and waste management, in order to protect human health and the environment. See for more information and follow the @brsmeas twitter feed for daily news.

For technical questions on plastic waste, contact:

Kei Ohno Woodall, Programme Officer, BRS Secretariat, Tel: +41-79-2333218

For media enquiries, interviews, more information, contact:

Charlie Avis: Public Information Officer, BRS Secretariat, Tel: +41-79-7304495

[1] The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal has 188 Parties. Turkey opted out of the Amendments as domestic processes take place. Canada and China initially opted out, but have since accepted, bringing the total to 186 States and the European Union. Parties had until 24 March 2020 (6 months after communication of adoption of the amendments) to notify the depositary that they did not accept the amendment.

[2] Dauvergne, P. (2018). Why is the global governance of plastic failing the oceans? Global Environmental 48 Change 51, 22-31.; Geyer, R. (2020). Production, Use and Fate of Synthetic Polymers in Plastic Waste and Recycling. Letcher, 8 T.M. (ed.). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.