BREAKING NEWS: Canada-US Arrangement made public

Thanks to your help, Canada has released the details of its Canada-US Arrangement on exporting hazardous plastic wastes.  You can read about it here.

Here’s what needs to happen now:

1) Show leadership.

Canada must complete the ratification of the the Basel Convention Plastic Waste amendments and, if it has not, then state when it intends to do so. Further, Canada should urge President-elect Biden to commit the US to ratifying the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal including its Amendments.

2) Be principled.

Canada must ensure that plastic wastes leaving Canada and entering the US will not be able to be exported to third countries. The Arrangement lacks provision for prior informed consent for all export of plastic waste between Canada and the United States and so must be immediately amended so that it provides an equivalent level of control as the Basel Convention, in particular a strict prohibition of re-export of those waste transferred from Canada.

Otherwise, what is to prevent Canadian waste from being trans-shipped from the US to developing countries when the US, a non-party to the Basel Convention, is not bound to prevent such exports? And what is to prevent plastic wastes from being burned in cement kilns, steel mills and other furnaces when exports of any waste plastic bound for R1 destinations is, according to the new Basel amendments, to be subject to prior informed consent? (R1 defined as using plastic waste as a fuel other than in direct incineration.

3) Be Transparent.

Has Canada reported this arrangement to the Basel Secretariat as required under Article 13, 3 (e)?

Here’s the situation:

The Canadian government, in a secretive, non-transparent manner, signed a Bilateral Arrangement with the United States regarding the import and export of plastic wastes. In addition to the secretive manner in which the Agreement was negotiated, we are concerned that in signing the Agreement Canada will be in violation of its legal obligations under the Basel Convention when the Convention’s plastic wastes provisions come into effect on January 1, 2021. Friends of the Earth and nine other environmental groups have written Minister Wilkinson demanding action.

The Canadian government has expressed its desire to ratify the Basel Convention amendments including the new listings of contaminated and difficult-to-recycle plastic waste before the amendments come into effect on January 1. These amendments require that Canada obtain Prior Informed Consent from any Basel Party to which Canada wishes to export plastic wastes that are listed in the Basel Convention and forbids trading such waste with non-Parties.

Even before the Amendment comes into force, it seems Canada and the US have secretly agreed to continue the current free trade in plastic waste and scrap of all kinds. The United States is not a Party to the Basel Convention and is therefore not bound by these requirements. Parties such as Canada are prohibited from trading hazardous or other wastes with non-Parties. But, Article 11 of the Convention allows Parties such as Canada an exception to this rule if they sign Bilateral Agreements with non-Parties such as the United States.

Any country exercising the Article 11 exception is legally obliged under Article 11 to ensure that “these agreements or arrangements shall stipulate provisions which are not less environmentally sound than those provided for by the Convention” and “must not derogate from the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and other wastes as required under the Convention.”

The bilateral agreement signed by Canada and the US is secret. Reportedly, it maintains the status quo and allows a free trade in these newly listed plastic wastes. If so, once the new Basel Convention amendments on plastic wastes enter into force January 1, 2021, the Canadian agreement with the US will deviate or “derogate” dramatically from the provisions of the Convention. If the agreement fails to meet the test of providing an equivalent level of control (no control v. prior informed consent) and therefore fails to ensure its provisions are not less environmentally sound than those required by Article 11 of the Convention, Canada will be out of compliance with the new Amendment.

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