“Implementation, implementation, implementation” was the refrain of the recent Stockholm+50 Conference. The tune rings true at the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions’ TripleCOP.
These treaties are fully in implementation mode, which brings its own benefits and challenges. Negotiating new rules is tricky, to be sure. But so are the tricky negotiations needed to help apply and strengthen existing rules on the time, and to help countries realize these rules on the ground. These treaties are dynamic, meaning that the existing rules can be applied to new chemicals and wastes.
On Thursday, the Stockholm Convention (SC) agreed to list perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts, and PHFxS-related compounds in Annex A, without exemptions. This industrial chemical is used in a range of applications, including stain-resistant fabrics, food packaging, and fire-fighting foams. By this decision, production and use of PFHxS will be eliminated to protect health and the environment. The work doesn’t end here, as PFHxS is in fire-fighting foams around the world, requiring a global transition to safe alternatives and representing a new waste management challenge.
The Basel Convention (BC) worked to update or develop technical guidelines to help countries safely manage hazardous and other wastes. Discussions focused on the complex issues around plastic waste. Given all the sources and types of plastic wastes, it’s an undertaking, amassing 300 paragraphs of text to review, negotiate, and agree on. Countries converged on a need to urgently update the guidelines on lead-acid battery waste, which can cause fires, explosions, poisoning, and leaks that contaminate the environment and endanger health.
The Plastic Forum continued, exploring the health implications of and the illegal trade in plastic waste. Other events considered potential solutions, such as refuse-derived fuel and recycling. While some events focused on broad questions of the global governance of plastic, a hackathon launched to bring together expertise on specific plastics issues.