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UN-backed meeting approves guidelines to cut hazards posed by plastic wastes

UN-backed meeting approves guidelines to cut hazards posed by plastic wastes

Governments gathered at a United Nations-backed meeting in Geneva today adopted new guidelines to protect against the hazards incurred when plastic wastes are discarded.

Culminating a week-long meeting supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), experts from some 100 governments were working to respond to growing concern that many developing countries lack the necessary legislation and facilities for coping with the dramatic growth in the quantity of plastic wastes.

According to UNEP, developing States often dispose of plastics through open, uncontrolled burning which releases pollutants into the air that can cause various illnesses. Further, the burning of certain plastics produces persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which circulate globally, also causing adverse health effects.

The development of technical guidelines came as part of efforts to implement the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of UNEP, which administers the treaty, said the new guidelines "demonstrate that the Basel Convention is playing a lead role in promoting environmentally sustainable development."

The Basel Convention was adopted in March 1989 after a series of notorious "toxic cargoes" from industrialized countries drew public attention to the dumping of hazardous wastes in developing and East European countries, according to UNEP.

The treaty, which has 149 parties, obliges its members to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Governments are expected to minimize the quantities that are transported, to treat and dispose of wastes as close as possible to where they were generated, and to minimize the generation of hazardous waste.