About the Convention
The main objective of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the Stockholm Convention) is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Countries that ratify the Stockholm Convention agree to take measures to eliminate or reduce environmental releases of these POPs.
Persistent organic pollutants are chemicals that can stay in the environment for a long time and travel vast distances in water or the atmosphere. They accumulate in the bodies of living organisms, including humans, and are found in higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain. Persistent organic pollutants are also toxic to living organisms. Examples of POPs include DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and some per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Ratifying the Convention
Australia ratified the Stockholm Convention in 2004. At this time, the Convention listed twelve POPs. Australia has placed controls on the import, manufacture, use and export of these chemicals.
Over time, more POPs have been added to the annexes of the Convention. Australia does not automatically adopt controls for new POPs listed in the Stockholm Convention. To ratify these new amendments, Australia must undertake a domestic treaty making process.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment works to ensure that newly-listed POPs are being managed across Australia in accordance with the requirements of the Convention. Once these POPs are being managed as required, the Government can decide whether to ratify the new listings.
Administering the Convention
Different Australian government agencies are responsible for administering Australia’s controls over the import, manufacture, use, disposal and export of POPs, and for coordinating Australia’s involvement in the Convention.
The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) leads Australia’s involvement in the Stockholm Convention. The Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS), the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and the Australian Border Force support DAWE in controlling the manufacture, import and export of chemicals listed on the Stockholm Convention.
State and territory governments also have an important role in managing the use and disposal of chemicals listed on the Stockholm Convention.
Introducing, using or exporting a POP
If you are looking to introduce, use or export a POP in Australia, you should consult the relevant authority, depending on whether your chemical is a pesticide or industrial chemical, to determine what your obligations are.
You should also contact your local state or territory government to find out about any additional restrictions on the use and disposal of POPs in your jurisdiction.
Australia has ratified and implemented controls on the following POPs listed in the Stockholm Convention Annexes:
- Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
While Australia has not formally ratified the other POPs listed in the Convention Annexes, there are still controls in place for many of these chemicals. If you are looking to introduce, use or export any of these POPs in Australia, you should consult the relevant authority, depending on whether your chemical is a pesticide or industrial chemical, to determine what your obligations are.
In future, we expect all chemicals listed on the Stockholm Convention to be subject to nationally consistent controls on their import, use and disposal, as per the requirements of the Convention. Many of these controls will be administered through the National Standard for Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals.