The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Contemplates Adoption of Basel Plastics Amendments

The OECD is described by many as the “rich countries club” – and it is not untrue. OECD is made up of 36 of the world’s highest income democracies.

Among other things, membership is contingent upon a nation’s “commit[ment] to the values of democracy based on the rule of law and human rights, and adherence to open and transparent market-economy principles,” according to the OECD’s vision statement.

That includes, among many measurements, the capacity and infrastructure for proper and responsible waste management, resource productivity, and other core environmentally-beneficial principles. Countries that meet high standards for these measurements are in, and therefore, there is a higher probability of proper recycling within the OECD.

Why, then, would the parties consider adopting the Basel Convention’s new plastic waste amendments that impose controls on so-far-undefined “mixed” and “contaminated” end-of-life plastics especially as the expectation for proper treatment can be met within the OECD? 

The OECD agreed in 2001 to automatically adopt Basel Convention changes into the OECD Guidance Manual for the Control of Transboundary Movements of Recoverable Wastes (“OECD Guidance”) for purposes of ease in trade, i.e., aligned regimes rather than separate ones so as to minimize confusion for importers and exporters.

But the OECD also included a mechanism for objecting to the automatic adoption, and the U.S. Government was first to use that right. In July, the United States submitted an objection to prevent the automatic adoption of the Basel Convention plastics amendments. Yet, most other parties (European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan) appear to want to pursue automatic adoption.

A “Task Team” has been formed to find a middle ground between the extreme positions: automatic adoption of all Basel amendments versus the status quo pursued by the United States.

The first meeting was held in September, and ReMA was one of just four business groups able to participate. ReMA is fully aligned with the U.S. Government in terms of promoting free and fair trade of recyclable commodities and ensuring this process does not set a precedent for future scrap trade restrictions within the OECD and in other forums. The European Union – a main driver of restricting cross-border trade of end-of-life plastics; did not have a consensus among its member states (a number of which oppose trade restrictions) and thus, could not negotiate. This resulted in a meeting stalemate. Another meeting will take place in early December.

ISRI is hopeful for a favorable outcome and is working hard in this process on behalf of our members to defend scrap trade, to ensure immediate continuity for trade of plastic scrap and to ensure that this does not set a precedent for international negotiations on trade restrictions of other scrap commodities in the future.

Please contact Adina Renee Adler with any questions or comments.



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