Governments accelerate action and take bold decisions to address pollution from chemicals and wastes

Geneva, 15 May 2023

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the 2023 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, the three leading multilateral environmental agreements for the sound management of chemicals and waste, came to a close on Friday close to midnight having gavelled bold decisions strengthening the sound management of chemicals and wastes for the protection of human health and the environment.

Over 2000 delegates representing 180 countries attended the meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, which were held in Geneva from 1 to 12 May 2023, and took important decisions including the listing for elimination of three new chemicals that have been determined as posing significant risks to human health and the environment under the Stockholm Convention, making an additional pesticide subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedure for imports and exports under the Rotterdam Convention, and the adoption of technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of plastic waste, POPs waste and e-waste under the Basel Convention. Furthermore the adoption of procedures and mechanisms on compliance by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), marked a historical achievement after two decades of work.

The Listing of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Further Development of the Stockholm Convention

The Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention took the decision to eliminate the use of three persistent organic pollutants, namely the pesticide methoxychlor and the industrial chemicals Dechlorane Plus and UV-328, by listing these chemicals in Annex A to the Convention.

Methoxychlor has been used as a replacement for DDT against a wide range of pests including biting flies, houseflies, mosquito larvae, cockroaches and chiggers on field crops, fruit, vegetables, ornamentals as well as on livestock and pets. It is known to be very highly toxic to invertebrates and fish, including through its endocrine-disrupting effects, and has been detected in the environment and biota in the Arctic and in Antarctica, far from its production and use. Methoxychlor has also been detected in human serum, adipose tissues, umbilical cord blood and human breast milk.

Dechlorane Plus is a flame retardant and UV-328 a UV absorbent, both chemicals are heavily used as plastic additives, such as for motor vehicles, industrial machines and in medical devices.

Governments also adopted the monitoring results that indicate that regulations targeting POPs have succeeded in reducing levels of POPs in humans and the environment. For the initial 12 POPs, concentrations measured in air and in human populations have declined and continue to decline or remain at low levels due to restrictions on POPs; and for the newly listed POPs, concentrations start showing decreasing levels.

The Conference of the Parties also requested the POPs Review Committee, the scientific body under the Convention, to make recommendations regarding options for identifying persistent organic pollutants in stockpiles, products and articles in use and in wastes.

The report on the second effectiveness evaluation of the Stockholm Convention was launched. It highlights that the Convention provides an effective and dynamic framework for regulating persistent organic pollutants throughout their life cycle, addressing the production, use, import, export, release, and disposal of these chemicals worldwide, and that progress has occurred since the first evaluation in 2017.

With the adoption of procedures and mechanisms on compliance, the Conference of the Parties has finally put in place the last institution required under the Stockholm Convention. The procedures and mechanisms, which will be operated by a Compliance Committee, will help Parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention by both examining systemic issues of interest to all Parties and challenges faced by individual Parties.

Listing of Chemicals and Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Rotterdam Convention

The eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention agreed to the listing of the pesticide terbufos for which an extremely high hazard to terrestrial organisms had been identified. This listing will make terbufos subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedure, thereby granting Parties to the Convention the right to decide on its future import.

Many delegates commended the Chemical Review Committee on its excellent work and recognized that an increasing number of notifications get to the agenda of this subsidiary body of the convention.

The Conference of the Parties also held intensive debates on ways to enhance the effectiveness of the Rotterdam Convention. Agreement was reached to further address the impacts regarding listing of chemicals to Annex III and its implementation, while a proposal to amend the Convention with an additional Annex to facilitate information exchange for chemicals and pesticides which have been recommended by the Chemical Review Committee for listing but which have not been listed by the Conference of the Parties was rejected.

Basel Convention: Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of Wastes

The sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention adopted technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of plastic waste, which reflect the first global understanding of how to minimize the generation of plastic wastes and to ensure that their collection, transport and disposal minimize negative impacts on human health and the environment. The Conference of the Parties also adopted technical guidelines on wastes containing or contaminated with persistent organic pollutants, and, again on an interim basis, technical guidelines on transboundary movements of electronic and electrical waste and used electrical and electronic equipment in particular regarding the distinction between waste and nonwaste under the Basel Convention and welcomed the technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of waste lead-acid batteries. The Technical Guidelines are meant to provide guidance to countries which are building their capacity to manage waste in an environmentally and efficient way and in their development of detailed procedures, waste management plans or strategies.

Speaking at the closing of the PCB Fair held in the margins of the meetings, Mr Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions stressed the need for countries to accelerate action to meet the upcoming deadlines related to the elimination of the use of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in equipment by 2025 and the environmentally sound waste management of liquids containing PCB and equipment contaminated with PCB by 2028 under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. PCB have historically been used in industry as heat exchange fluids, in electric transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics. PCBs are toxic to fish, killing them at higher doses and causing spawning failures at lower doses. Research also links PCBs to reproductive failure and suppression of the immune system in various wild animals, such as seals and mink.

Τhe three conferences closed with a further strengthened mandate for international cooperation with other organizations, including the Minamata Convention on mercury, as well as in support of the recently adopted resolutions by the United Nations Environment Assembly to forge a new international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, and to establish a science policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and prevent pollution.

Promoting action on making visible the invisible, to address the triple planetary crises on pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss, the three conferences also further strengthened the mandate for international cooperation with other organizations, including with the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Global Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, and noted that actions under the BRS conventions may contribute to achieving the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Notes for Editors:

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, to protect human health and the environment. See for more information and follow the @brsmeas twitter feed for daily news.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 190 Parties. With an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes and other wastes, its scope covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous” based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics, as well as other types of wastes requiring special consideration, including household waste, incinerator ash, and plastics wastes. See

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, is jointly administered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment (UNEP). The 165 Parties to this legally-binding Convention share responsibility and cooperate to safely manage chemicals in international trade. To date 54 chemicals and pesticides and formulations are listed in its Annex III. The Convention does not introduce bans but facilitates the exchange of information among Parties on hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and their potential risks, to inform and improve national decision making. In addition, through the PIC Procedure, it provides a legally-binding mechanism to support national decisions on the import of selected chemicals and pesticides in order to minimize the risk they pose to human health and the environment. See

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Convention requires its Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. As of today, this legally-binding Convention has 186 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. To date, 34 chemicals of global concern have been listed under the Stockholm Convention. See

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