UN "very confident" of deal to stop plastic waste ending up in the sea

by Reuters
Friday, 10 May 2019 15:22 GMT

(Updates with quotes, detail)

By Tom Miles

GENEVA, May 10 (Reuters) - Nearly 200 countries taking part in marathon talks aimed at reducing the amount of plastic that gets washed into the world's oceans are likely to reach a deal on Friday, officials involved in the negotiations said.

They said the talks had progressed much better than expected amid growing public awareness worldwide - reinforced by documentary films by British naturalist David Attenborough and others - of the dangers of plastic pollution to marine life.

The legally binding amendments to the Basel Convention would introduce new rules on tracking plastic waste and require national authorities to step up their controls on the processing and recycling of plastics and boost their monitoring at ports.

Campaigners have said the changes would make it harder for the United States, the leading exporter, to ship unsorted plastic to emerging Asian economies for disposal.

Rolph Payet, executive secretary at U.N. Environment for the Basel, Rotterdam & Stockholm Conventions, said the negotiations which began 11 days ago had gone much further than anticipated.

"I personally will tell you I'm really really surprised that we've come this far because it is a complex subject to deal with," Payet told reporters.

"The progress has been tremendous and beyond our expectations, so just wait for the good news - I think it will be good news."

With a few areas of the text yet to be finalised, there were no countries holding out, just negotiations over the detailed wording, secretariat spokesman said Charlie Avis said.

"We're very confident that we'll have a decision to bring you later today," he said. "We're talking about minute details in the wording of the annexes."

"DEAD ALBATROSS CHICKS"

Payet said the new rules should have a significant impact on ocean pollution and ensure that plastics "do not end up where they should not end up".

Paul Rose, expedition leader for the National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions, said he believed changing public opinion worldwide about plastic pollution had played a positive role in the negotiations.

"It was those iconic images of the dead albatross chicks on the Pacific Islands with their stomachs open and all recognisable 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," Rose said.

An online petition entitled "Stop dumping plastic in paradise!" has attracted almost a million signatures in the past week, Avis said.

Once agreed, the new rules will take a year to come into force. But Payet said the signatory countries had said they did not want any delay, adding that the plan was to "hit the ground running". (Reporting by Tom Miles Editing by Gareth Jones)

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