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IPEN Urges BRS COPs Delegates to Follow the Science, Ban Dangerous Chemicals Without Exemptions
Stronger, more health-protective rules should be adopted for Low POPs Content Levels in wastes
Geneva, April 26, 2023 – At the outset of the negotiations of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs), IPEN members from about 20 countries are gathered in Geneva to call on delegates to take swift action to address toxic chemical threats to our health and the environment. In particular, IPEN supports the Stockholm Convention’s scientific expert review committee’s recommendation to add three chemicals, the pesticide methoxychlor, the plastic additive UV-328, and the flame retardant Dechlorane Plus (also often used in plastics), to the Convention’s list of hazardous, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that meet the criteria for global elimination.
IPEN also strongly supports listing the three chemicals without exemptions, noting that industry has lobbied for broad exemptions for Dechlorane Plus and UV-328 with timelines that go far beyond the Convention’s provisions. For example, Article 4 of the Convention indicates that exemptions should only be initially approved for five years, and then the need for their continuation should be evaluated – but under the current proposal, some exemptions would last until 2044, allowing for continued production and use of these dangerous chemicals for two decades.
“The evidence is clear that these chemicals pose serious threats to our health and the environment, especially to workers and Indigenous Peoples who receive no benefits from their production and use. Alternatives are already available so there is no reason for exemptions,” said Dr. Sara Brosché, a Science Advisor with IPEN. “Any costs for their replacements must be borne by the industry that profits from them. IPEN members from around the world are looking forward to discussing this issue and contributing to all of the discussions over the coming week.”
Today, Dr. Brosche is speaking at a webinar organized by UNEP in preparation for the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention, and will share data on the health impacts from toxic chemicals, including evidence from a new IPEN study that tested e-waste workers in Thailand for blood levels of Dechlorane Plus. The study showed that continued production and use of Dechlorane Plus in electronics and vehicles will lead to continued poisoning of the workers handling these wastes and their communities.
During the upcoming discussions, IPEN will call on delegates to reject industry’s attempt to ensure the continued marketing and use of their toxic products and list chemicals without exemptions. Further, when exemptions are considered, IPEN urges that
• Exemptions should only be for narrow, clearly defined applications.
• Industry should be required to provide data with full justification, proof of inability to substitute, and a time frame for removal of the chemical from the market.
• Exemptions should be limited to five years, as indicated in Article 4.
• The COP should schedule an evaluation process for any request to extend an exemption beyond five years.
During the two weeks of the BRS COPs, IPEN will also host three side events:
- Why Low POPs Content Level Matters, Monday, 1 May at 6:15 - 7:45 p.m.
- Plastics and Chemicals Under the Stockholm Convention: Impacts on the ground and potential synergies and gaps in relation to a future plastics treaty, Thursday, 4 May at 6:15 - 7:45 p.m.
- PCB Elimination by 2028: Potential of non-combustion destruction technologies, Friday, 5 May at 1:15 - 2:45 p.m.
The Stockholm Convention has important convergences with the ongoing process toward a global Plastics Treaty,” said Griffins Ochieng, Executive Director of the Centre for Environment, Justice and Development (CEJAD) in Kenya and co-chair of IPEN’s Plastics Working Group. “Plastics poison people and pollute the planet. We need to reduce plastic production and promote alternative, toxics-free materials for a truly circular economy.”
The Basel Convention negotiations will include proposals around the Convention’s plastic waste guidelines. IPEN calls for removing chemical recycling as a means of plastic waste disposal in the guidelines, as the technology fails to meet the criteria for Environmentally Sound Management. IPEN also notes that combustion technologies for plastics disposal, such as cement kilns and waste incineration, lead to emission and releases of POPs and should be discouraged.
“We should not fall for the plastics industry’s ploy to promote chemical recycling, as the overwhelming evidence shows that the technology is not environmentally sound, remains commercially unproven, and produces large hazardous waste streams,” said Lee Bell, Mercury and POPs Advisor with IPEN. “Even the industry’s own trade association acknowledged as much as a 30% hazardous waste stream from chemical recycling. Instead of industry fairy tales, we should focus on detoxifying plastics and reducing plastic production.”
Also under the Basel Convention, IPEN notes that the general technical guidelines on POPs waste include the Low POP Content Level (LPCL) for each POP listed under the Stockholm Convention, such that any waste containing a POP exceeding the LPCL is defined as “POPs waste” and must be destroyed or irreversibly transformed so that it no longer exhibits POPs characteristics. But when high LPCLs are adopted, less protection is provided for human health and the environment. IPEN supports strict, protective LPCL values for adoption at the COP, as detailed in our Quick Views.
Negotiations on the Rotterdam Convention will include important procedural discussions. Previously, stalling tactics by one or a few Parties have led to logjams in listing of new chemicals. IPEN supports proposals to allow voting when efforts at consensus have been exhausted, to avoid such deadlocks. IPEN supports adding seven chemicals to the Convention’s Annex III list of chemicals that should be subject to Prior Informed Consent: acetochlor, carbosulfan, chrysotile asbestos, fenthion, paraquat, iprodione, and terbufos.
IPEN resources, activities, and updates throughout the BRS COPs are posted on the IPEN website.
The International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) is a global network of more than 600 Participating Organizations in over 125 countries, primarily developing and transition countries. IPEN works to establish and implement safe chemicals policies and practices that protect human health and the environment, for a toxics-free future for all.