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SR-47 (2019-2020)

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Enrolled  July 08, 2019
Passed  IN  Senate  July 05, 2019


Senate Resolution
No. 47

Introduced by Senator Wieckowski

June 05, 2019

Relative to the Basel Convention.


SR 47, Wieckowski.

WHEREAS, The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal is an international treaty that regulates movement of hazardous waste between borders, and includes 187 countries; and
WHEREAS, The Basel Convention was signed by the United States in 1989 and the United States Senate gave consent to ratification in 1992, but the United States House of Representatives failed to amend the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 to restrict import and export of hazardous waste per the Basel Convention, therefore preventing the United States State Department from finalizing the ratification of the convention; and
WHEREAS, The United States’ failure to ratify the Basel Convention forced the need for costly and time-consuming separate bilateral and multilateral waste transfer agreements with Canada and Mexico, recyclables waste exchange agreements with Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, and waste import agreements with Malaysia, the Philippines, and Costa Rica; and
WHEREAS, The United States’ failure to ratify the Basel Convention prevents the United States from fully participating in Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, including the negotiations over financial responsibilities liabilities, and definitions of wastes and environmental management; and
WHEREAS, Due to the United States’ failure to ratify the Basel Convention, American businesses, including ones that operate in countries that are party to the Basel Convention, are restricted in the importation of their own waste products from foreign facilities to their domestic facilities, including electronic wastes and rare metals and other materials that could be reused or recycled into new products, and be subject to liability rules under the Basel Convention while having no United States representation in the Conference of the Parties that determine liability rules; and
WHEREAS, California has, over the last three decades, committed to 25-percent, 50-percent, and now 75-percent waste reduction, recycling, and composting of generated waste; and
WHEREAS, California has developed and implemented innovative and ambitious policies, programs, and infrastructure that have made significant progress toward the achievement of these goals; and
WHEREAS, Where policy makers have assigned producer responsibility for recycling and invested in California-based closed loop recycling, we can point to a reduction in waste and the achievement of material recycling levels equal to or greater than statewide goals; and
WHEREAS, Where policy makers have failed to assign producer responsibility for recycling and have relied on unverifiable and unaccountable overseas markets, the result has been fake recycling, illegal dumping and burning, and the return of our waste in the form of a growing patch of plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre; and
WHEREAS, Despite near universal access to the opportunity to recycle, specific problem materials such as 3-7 plastics and plastic-coated cartons have failed to demonstrate viable recycling; and
WHEREAS, Our continued inclusion, despite years of warning, of these nonrecyclable contaminants in bales of mixed plastic and mixed paper shipped overseas finally prompted the People’s Republic of China, a major destination for California’s recyclables, to enact their National Sword Policy in 2018, which specifically bans the import of 3-7 plastics and plastic-coated papers, and places severe restrictions on importation of other recyclables; and
WHEREAS, The National Sword Policy has initially compelled many California communities and recycling program operators to try to shift the export of plastic waste and plastic-contaminated paper to other, poorer countries around the Pacific Rim, resulting in unhealthy working conditions for trash sorters, illegal dumping and burning, and new sources of plastic pollution in our oceans; and
WHEREAS, The Basel Conference of the Parties in May 2019 amended the Basel Convention to additionally include contaminated and mixed plastic waste in the agreement, therefore requiring previous consent from receiving countries to accept such wastes, that nations accepting such wastes demonstrate the ability to receive and responsibly recycle or dispose of such wastes, and making trade in global plastic waste more transparent and regulated; and
WHEREAS, The State of California will be better able to meet its waste reduction and recycling goals if the United States joins the 187 nations that are party to the ongoing efforts to reduce and monitor global wastes, increase the use of recycled materials from waste materials, and protect less-developed countries from exploitation, as outlined in the Basel Convention, rather than being subject to a patchwork of existing individual agreements and the possible need for additional agreements with other nations in the future; and
WHEREAS, California businesses and policymakers will have a voice in the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention and have clear guidelines and policies to follow in regards to export and import of wastes and recyclable materials with the 187 nations that are party to the Basel Convention; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, That the Senate supports the goals of the Basel Convention and the May 2019 Amendment to include plastic as a hazardous material for purposes of the convention; and be it further
Resolved, That the Senate of urges the United States Congress to fully ratify the Basel Convention and take legislative action mandated by the convention to restrict the import and export of hazardous wastes covered by the convention, while also amending the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 to ensure proper disposal of received materials and authority to take illegally transported wastes; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit a copy of this resolution to the President of the United States, the Congress of the United States, and the Secretary of State of the United States.