Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Treaty making process for nine new POPs (February 2011)

In August 2010, nine new chemicals were added to the Stockholm Convention's annexes. These are the first chemicals to be added to the annexes since Australia signed up to the Convention in 2004. For Australia, an amendment to the annexes takes effect upon ratification of that amendment. Accordingly, Australia is now considering ratification, and to do so must undertake a domestic treaty making process.

About the Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants  came into force on 17 May 2004, with Australia ratifying the Convention on 20 May 2004 and becoming a Party on 18 August 2004.

The Convention is a global treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from the effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The Convention has a range of control measures to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the release of POPs, including emissions of unintentionally produced POPs such as dioxins. The Convention also aims to ensure the sound management of stockpiles and wastes that contain POPs.

In 2004, 12 POPs were listed in annexes to the Convention. These were:

More recently, in 2010, nine additional POPs were added to the Convention. They are:

  • Chlordecone
  • Lindane
  • Hexabromobiphenyl
  • Pentachlorobenzene
  • Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Beta hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOS)
  • Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenylether ('commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether')
  • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether ('commercial octabromdiphenyl ether)

The Convention recognises that there are other chemicals that could pose similar risks to human health and the environment, therefore other chemicals may be added to the annexes in the future.

In relation to the 12 original POPs, Australia is well advanced in meeting the measures agreed under the Convention. Production, import and use of aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, HCB, heptachlor, endrin, and toxaphene are not permitted in Australia. Production and import of PCBs are also not permitted in Australia, with phase-out of existing PCBs being managed under the National Strategy for the Management of Scheduled Waste. This strategy also addresses Australia's management of HCB waste and organochlorine pesticides.

How has Australia implemented its obligations for the first 12 POPs?

Article 7 of the Stockholm Convention requires each party to develop, and to put into practice, a plan setting out how it will implement its obligations under the Convention. Australia is well positioned in implementing its obligations under the Stockholm Convention, with much of the work already done.

National Implementation Plan

The Australian Government has developed a National Implementation Plan (NIP), which outlines the actions that Australia:

  • has taken to date in reducing the presence of POPs; and
  • will take in the future to meet its obligations under the Convention.

See Table 1 for actions taken to meet Australia's obligations under the Convention.

The NIP also sets out the roles and responsibilities of Australian governments and ministerial councils in the management of chemicals in Australia.

The then Department of the Environment and Heritage led the development of the NIP, in consultation with other Australian Government agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Health and Ageing; Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Industry, Tourism and Resources, as well as state and territory environment protection agencies. Non-government environment and industry organisations were also consulted in the preparation of the NIP.

Stakeholder forums

The Australian Government has established two stakeholder forums for the purpose of consultation. These are the Stockholm Intergovernmental Forum and the Stockholm Reference Group.

Stockholm Intergovernmental Forum

The Stockholm Intergovernmental Forum comprises representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory government agencies with an interest in POPs, and was established in September 2004.

Stockholm Reference Group

The Stockholm Reference Group comprises representatives from industry, environment, primary producers and health sectors and any other groups, companies or individuals with an interest in POPs. Under the chair of the then Department of the Environment and Heritage, the Stockholm Reference Group assisted in the development of Australia's NIP and aims to:

  • assist in the implementation of the NIP;
  • provide an information conduit for non-government organisations with an interest in POPs and to act as a resource for the sharing of knowledge and experience between organisations; and
  • assist with the development of educational and information material relevant to Australia's National Implementation Plan and the National Action Plan for Dioxins.

Australia's actions on the 12 POPs listed under the Convention

Table 1: POPs listed in 2004
POP Cas no. Description Production, use and importation restrictions
Aldrin 309-00-2 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1992 and importation prohibited.
Dieldrin 60-57-1 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1988 and importation prohibited.
DDT (pp'- DDT) 50-29-3 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1987 and importation prohibited.
Endrin 72-20-8 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1987 and importation prohibited.
Chlordane 57-74-9 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1997 and importation prohibited.
Hexachloro-benzene (HCB) 118-74-1 Pesticide, Industrial by-product Final registration cancelled 1980 and importation prohibited. National strategy for HCB waste provides for management and destruction of stockpile.
Mirex 2385-85 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 2007. Prohibited import.
Toxaphene 8001-35-2 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1987.
Heptachlor 76-44-8 Pesticide Final registration cancelled 1997 and importation prohibited.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) - Industrial by-product Importation of PCBs is banned unless explicit permission is granted by the Minister for Customs and Border Protection Service.
Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans - By-product No federal emission standards but most states have some regulations. Reporting under National Pollutant Inventory.