Last month, in a two-week United Nations conference held in Switzerland, Australia was one of 187 countries to agree to amend the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in its initiatives.
The Basel Convention is an international treaty that controls the movement of hazardous waste between countries, particularly from developed nations to underdeveloped nations. The treaty deals with waste that is defined “explosive, flammable, toxic, or corrosive,” and plastic will now be considered a hazardous material, with an urgent need for its export to be regulated.
Why is Plastic Considered a Hazardous Waste?
Plastic generally takes up to 1,000 years to break down in landfill, although this can vary depending on the type of plastic. For example, plastic bags can take anywhere between 10 to 1,000 years to break down, plastic bottles can take 450 to 1,000 years, and detergent bottles can take 500 to 1,000 years.
However, it is incredibly common for plastic to find its way to our oceans and there is no concrete answer to how long plastics remain there. UV rays cause plastic to degrade into smaller pieces, which are just as harmful to our marine life as larger plastics. That’s because micro-plastics (5mm or smaller), or floating marine debris, make up a significant amount of the ocean’s plastic pollution. In fact, scientists often refer to micro-plastics as “plastic soup” in the ocean.
There is an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, and considering that one million everyday citizens around the world signed a petition urging for change to be made at the conference, it was time to step up. UN Environment Executive Secretary, Rolph Payet, acknowledges that this was a clear sign that “public awareness and desire for action is high.”
So, What Does This Mean for Australia And Our Businesses?
Amending the Basel Convention to regulate the export of plastic waste is a major effort to solve the world’s waste crisis and considers the safety of both human health and the environment.
To consider what this regulation means for Australian businesses, you must ultimately consider what it means for the waste management providers When it comes to issues or concerns like this, they are the backbone of Australian businesses.
Firstly, this amendment is a sign that Australia needs to hone down on our own waste management initiatives. As China introduced its ban on waste imports in 2018, Australia’s main concern should be Indonesia, its second-largest waste destination. According to the 2018 National Waste Report, Indonesia receives 19% of Australia’s total waste exports.
It’s up to our national waste management providers, as well as the Australian government, to figure out how to act ethically to abide by these new regulations. So, as a business owner or manager, you should ensure that you are working with a reputable, trusted provider, who communicates to you exactly how they act in business. This includes communicating their business mission and vision, and ensuring their services go to licensed landfill.
Additionally, there should be an open conversation between your business and your rubbish removal provider on how to reduce your plastic waste consumption – the ultimate way to help tackle this crisis. Your options and solutions will vary depending on the nature of your business and industry, however your provider is there to guide you and make suggestions on how you can achieve the most sustainable solution. This includes suggesting alternatives to improve the amount or types of waste that your business produces, in a way that achieves better results for the environment and for your business.
Are you concerned about the amount of plastic waste your business produces? Want to speak to a trusted expert about improving your Waste Management Solution? Contact Nationwide Waste Solutions – one of Australia’s leading rubbish removal specialists – on 1300 729 922.