Nearly every country in the world except the United States took a historic step to curb plastic waste last week, when more than 180 nations agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates the movement of hazardous materials between countries. The U.S. is one of just two countries that has not ratified the 30 year-old treaty. During negotiations last week in Geneva, the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department joined the plastics industry in trying to thwart the landmark, legally-binding agreement. Despite this, the United States will still be affected by the agreement, because countries will be able to block the dumping of mixed or unrecyclable plastic wastes from other nations. The amended treaty will make it much more difficult for wealthy countries to send their plastic waste to poorer nations by prohibiting countries from exporting plastic waste that is not ready for recycling. The U.N. estimates there are 100 million tons of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. We speak with Pam Miller, co-chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network and executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics.
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