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News article28 April 2023Directorate-General for Environment3 min read

Zero pollution: EU advocates for sound management of chemicals and waste at UN environmental conventions meeting

From 1 to 12 May, the EU will participate in the meeting of the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions in Geneva.

Plastic litter in bundles.
© ermingut / Getty Images

From 1 to 12 May at the meeting of the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions in Geneva, the EU will join the international efforts to reduce hazardous wastes, eliminate persistent organic pollutants, and control trade and illegal trafficking of toxic chemicals and wastes. This is in line with its Green Deal ambitions to achieve a carbon-neutral, circular and toxic-free economy and society by 2030. 

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

Decisive multilateral action is essential for tackling the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. From developing standards for managing plastic waste to better controlling the trade of hazardous chemicals, the decisions to be taken at the upcoming upcoming COPs will have a profound impact on the global management of chemicals and waste. The EU remains committed to lead the way on these critical topics, contributing to the work on the establishment of a dedicated science-policy panel. By working together at international level, we can ensure a safer and circular future for us all.

The Rotterdam Convention meeting will consider regulating in a stricter way the imports and exports of seven chemicals, subjecting them to the ‘Prior Informed Consent’ procedure. This links very closely to EU commitments under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability regarding EU exports of hazardous substances. 

The Stockholm Convention is the only treaty of the three that eliminates or restricts the production and use of chemicals. It will consider proposals to list the hazardous chemicals dechlorane plus, a flame retardant, UV-328, an ultraviolet filter used in plastics, and methoxychlor, a pesticide. If approved, countries would have to eliminate production and use of these chemicals, with some specific exemptions. 

The Basel Convention will provide more detailed guidance on recent landmark decisions on the management and trade of plastics and electronic waste. Both of these rapidly growing waste streams are now subject to the controls of the Convention, allowing countries to decide on whether to allow intended movements of waste to and from their territories. 

The EU will spearhead efforts at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels to render global trade in waste more sustainable, as well as to promote better waste management practices and the uptake of more circular models in the economies of our partner countries. With the new rules on waste shipments the export of plastic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries will be banned, except for clean plastic waste sent for recycling. These rules should end the export of plastic waste to third countries that often do not have the capacity and standards to manage it sustainably. The EU will also promote the adoption of a new legally binding international agreement on plastics, and support actions to reduce pollution from e-waste, used vehicles and textile waste, which pose particular environmental challenges worldwide. 


In 2022, the world crossed the planetary boundary for environmental pollution, which threatens the stability of life and ecosystems worldwide. Plastic waste is increasing rapidly, doubling over the last twenty years, while only 9% is recycled globally. In 2019 alone, the world generated 53.6 megatonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste), only 17% of which was recorded as collected and recycled. Up to 33% of soils are degraded, and the use of hazardous pesticides can have an adverse effect on all ecosystems, including soil. Hazardous chemicals and wastes can linger in the environment and in people, creating long legacies of pollution that affect health, nature, wildlife, and the climate. 

In 2022 the UN Environment Assembly launched negotiations for a new legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, and a science-policy panel on chemicals and waste to help the world better understand the full effect of toxics on people and the planet.  

In the second round of negotiations on a global treaty on plastics in Paris in May 2023, the EU will advocate for a legally binding instrument, addressing all stages of plastic cycle, building on the polluter pays principle, the precautionary principle and the waste hierarchy. 


Publication date
28 April 2023
Directorate-General for Environment

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