New UN project tackles plastic pollution in mountainous and remote regions

11th December 2019: Geneva, Switzerland

Representatives from governments, international organisations, business and industry, and civil society gathered today in Geneva to launch a new UN project on plastic waste in mountainous and remote regions.

The growth of plastics production since the mid-20th century has substantially outpaced any other manufactured material. Around 60 per cent of all plastics ever produced have been discarded and are accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment[1].

Pollution from plastic waste is a growing global concern. The public is increasingly moved by images of plastic waste in seas and on beaches worldwide, whilst simultaneously, scientific research aims at understanding the effect of particles known as “microplastics” on human health and the environment. Much of the on-going research is focused on effects of microplastics on the marine and freshwater environments; however, little is known about the impact of microplastics on inland ecosystems.[2] This is particularly worrying given the importance of land-based ecosystems and the services they deliver. Plastic is everywhere, even in places where one would not expect to find it. Remote but important regions, and populations, are increasingly impacted. For example, microplastic can be found in high-altitude, apparently pristine alpine nature reserves[3] and at the same time, in the Arctic or on small islands in the middle of our oceans, for example the Indian Ocean[4].

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted in 1989 and as of today has 187 Parties, giving it almost universal coverage. It is the only legally-binding agreement covering plastic waste. Recent decisions at the Basel Convention’s Conference of Parties – or COP - have shown that the international community recognises the need to tackle this problem at source. In May 2019 the ground-breaking decisions to amend the Annexes of the Convention was a first step to challenge the most pressing questions in the field of plastic waste, namely, how to better control transboundary movements of plastic wastes, how to deal with enormous quantities of plastic waste in an environmentally sound manner and how to prevent leakages into the environment, giving ever more attention to land-based sources of plastic waste.

Today, 11 December, we celebrate the International Mountains Day. Designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003, this day raises awareness on the beauty of mountains and their importance to our daily life, highlights opportunities and constraints in mountain development, and builds alliances that will bring positive change to mountain environments – and the people who live there - around the world.

Thus, the Secretariat of the Basel Convention is proud to announce the start of a new project named “Plastic waste in remote and mountainous areas”. The project aims to collect best practices of the environmentally sound management of plastic waste and raise awareness for the problem within the tourism sector and outdoor recreation industry. Subsequently, the project seeks to apply the collected best practices to mountainous and remote areas in a developing country setting through pilot testing of the outcomes. Envisaged partners include UN Environment Programme, ski and mountaineering organisations, and the private sector including tourism and sports equipment manufacturers.


The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environment on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 187 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 two types of waste defined as “other wastes”, namely household waste and incinerator ash. For more info see

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

The Basel Convention offers avenues for all States to take collective action towards minimising plastic waste generation at source and promoting their environmentally sound management. The recent Conference of the Parties (COP), 29 April to 10 May 2019 in Geneva, decided upon a range of additional steps to better address the challenges of plastics wastes[5] including amendments to the Convention on plastic wastes[6]; and the establishment of a new Partnership on Plastic Waste. This Partnership, launched in October 2019, is designed as an international vehicle for public-private cooperation, sharing of best practices, and technical assistance in the area of at-source measures to minimise and more effectively manage plastic waste, thus helping tackle the global environmental problem of marine plastic litter. More on minimising plastic waste here.

Media enquiries, interviews, more information, contact:
Charlie Avis: Public Information Officer, BRS Secretariat Tel: +41-79-7304495

Substantive questions related to the project, contact:
Marius Wiher: Programme Officer, BRS Secretariat Tel.: +41-22-9178828

[1] Bigalke, Moritz; Filella, Montserrat (2019). Foreword to the research front on ‘Microplastics in Soils'. Environmental chemistry, 16(1-2), pp. 1-2. CSIRO Publishing. Doi: 10.1071/ENv16n1_FO

[2] ibid

[3] soils_in_swiss_nature_reserves_contain_significant_quantities_of_microplastics/index_eng.html

[4] Lavers, J.L., Dicks, L., Dicks, M.R. et al. Significant plastic accumulation on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australia. Sci Rep 9, 7102 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-43375-4