Discussions on Asia Pacific Plastic Waste control take center stage at the WCO

28 February 2022

On 24 and 25 February the WCO Secretariat organized a Conference at WCO headquarters within the framework of the Asia Pacific Plastic Waste (APPW) Project on the topic of plastic waste control and the implementation of the Basel Convention in the Asia Pacific region.

The Conference was hosted by the APPW Project, which cooperated with the Customs administrations and environmental authorities of Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam in order to present the activities they organized and the results they obtained.

In his opening remarks, WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya thanked the government of Japan, represented by H.E. Makita Shimokawa, the Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and to NATO, for having started and financially supported this initiative.

Dr. Mikuriya highlighted that “Customs administrations are more and more aware of the environmental concerns related to the plastic waste trade. The Asia Pacific Plastic Waste Project demonstrated the commitment of the administrations participating in the Project to take actions against illegal shipments of plastic waste and to promote procedures to facilitate legal trade. We look forward to continuing this effort by opening up the Project to more administrations and with the help of our international and regional stakeholders. We have to make sure that Customs can fully play its role in fostering sustainable supply chains”, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya said.

Presentations on the Green Customs initiative and on the activities concerning plastic waste undertaken at the WCO, as well as the speeches by the representatives from the participating administrations allowed to lay out the scene of plastic waste trade in the Asia Pacific and highlighted the challenges encountered by the administrations in dealing with imports of plastic waste.

The APPW Project achieved several deliverables, including the development of a self-assessment tool to allow Customs administrations to assess their ability to enforce the Basel Convention provisions and to build capacity step by step to enhance fraud detection and efficient risk management. The Frontline Customs Officers’ Guide to Key Multilateral Environmental Agreements was amended to align itself with the Basel Convention and its recent amendments. A dedicated section on the Basel Convention and plastic waste was developed to be included in the Coordinated Border Management (CBM) Compendium.

During the Conference, participants discussed the international and regional dimensions of plastic waste trade and related ongoing interventions, policies, challenges, priorities and opportunities for cooperation among the different actors involved. They also discussed the role of regional organizations and environmental authorities in supporting Customs administrations in the fight against plastic waste trafficking and in promoting legal waste trade. These discussions were summarized in a Conference Statement.

The government of Japan kindly offered a 15-month extension of the project to continue working on building capacity at the Customs Administrations and expand the participating countries.

Illicit plastic waste management has been recognized as a new global challenge, as highlighted in the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision”. Japan is therefore pleased to provide financial support for the WCO's Asia Pacific Plastic Waste Project under the "MARINE Initiative" to help Customs administrations in their role to minimize and eventually eliminate the destructive impact of illegal plastic waste on the environment. Japan appreciates the WCO's efforts and look forward to a fruitful implementation of this project”, said H.E. Makita Shimokawa during his opening speech.

The inclusion of new countries will help to identify further aspects to be taken into account in the development of a regional approach to plastic waste trade, to apply the newly drafted deliverables in a regional context and to fine-tune future regional recommendations regarding plastic waste trade.

In his closing remarks Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa, Deputy Secretary General of the WCO, highlighted the wish to develop a regional approach towards the plastic waste trade and to strengthen international cooperation so as to ensure the protection of the environment from the effects of the improper management of plastic waste. Customs is one of the key players. The WCO Secretariat will therefore continue to raise awareness among ithe members on the importance of sustainable waste trade.

Mr. Treviño Chapa further announced that WCO is planning to host a Green Customs Global Conference on 27-28 June 2022, drawing together a diversity of stakeholders to discuss some of the key aspects to strengthen Customs role in sustainable and a greener supply chain to protect the environment through trade.