On January 1, 2021, an important new law tackling plastic pollution came into effect. It was an amendment to the Basel Convention, which controls the movement of hazardous waste between countries, and thanks to pressure from Norway, was expanded to include plastic. Nearly every country in the world (186 nations) signed on to the amendment, but unfortunately, the United States was not one of them.
The amendment states that countries receiving shipments of plastic waste for recycling must be informed of its contents and give permission for those shipments to arrive. If permission is not granted, the shipment remains in its country of origin. It is a response to the flood of contaminated, mixed, and difficult-to-recycle plastics that has been dumped on many developing countries, including Vietnam and Malaysia (among others), since China’s ban on plastic imports started in January 2018.