Last Friday, 187 countries decided to include plastic in the Basel Convention, a UN agreement regimenting how countries move hazardous waste.

Formerly, countries simply signed contracts with private companies—often operating in developing regions—before sent their lower-quality, hard-to-recycle plastics off.

Now, nations must first obtain government consent from the countries where they outsource their waste management.

Though the US was one of two states refusing to ratify the update, it will still need to abide by the new rule.

In 2018, China (which handled 45% of the world’s plastic) stopped importing plastic below 99.9% purity. Neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Thailand were swamped.

The upended trade dynamic underscored our skyrocketing plastic creation and trade levels—and highlighted how individual states sell on ecological responsibility.

World plastic production has increased almost 200-fold in 65 years, reaching 381 million tonnes in 2015, and 400 million in 2017; half is single-use plastic.

Last week’s treaty forces refuse-exporting countries to account for local population when dealing with plastics. But should the global community go further?

Should private companies need state approval to import all foreign waste—plastic or otherwise? Or is that both economically unwise and logistically unfeasible?

   
Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.