The United States is one of two countries that sat out of an agreement to regulate the international movement of plastic in an effort to control the harmful effects that plastic has on the environment and human health.
The agreement, at the United Nations-backed meeting in Geneva, Switzerland this weekend, brought 187 governments together in the effort. This year’s meeting was the 14th annual meeting addressing the Basel Convention, which originated as a treaty to regulate hazardous materials moving between countries.
Now, plastics have been added to the treaty, a move that environmentalists are praising. The treaty addressed a finding that there is now over 100 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans and that 80% to 90% of it comes from land-based sources.
Although the U.S. sat out of the agreement, the government isn’t off the hook from complying with the treaty completely. According to CNN, the ruling will apply when the U.S. trades plastic waste to almost every other country.
The United States’ plastic waste does not always stay within its borders. According to Reuters, the U.S., Japan, and Germany alone are responsible for 1 billion kilos of plastic exported to other countries per year.
While various states have made attempts to cut down on plastic waste, such as banning straws, shopping bags, and styrofoam, other countries have taken more drastic measures on an international scale. In March, the European Parliament agreed to ban all single-use plastic items — cutlery, straws, take-out containers, etc. — by 2021.
The United States’ absence from the deal mirrors the 2017 decision by the Trump administration to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, being the only country in the world to do so.