Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

This page has information on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 2001 and New Zealand’s implementation of it.

About the convention

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the convention) aims to protect human health and the environment by banning the production and use of some of the most toxic chemicals. The convention became international law in May 2004. New Zealand ratified the convention in September 2004. It entered into force for New Zealand on 23 December 2004.

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants [Stockholm Convention website]

Contact details in New Zealand

National Focal Point Stockholm Convention, Ministry for the Environment, PO Box 10362, Wellington 6143

Phone: 0800 499 700 or +64 4 439 7400 / Email: stockholm@mfe.govt.nz

What are persistent organic pollutants 

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances that are carbon-based.

Once released into the environment they:

  • remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years)
  • become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air
  • accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain
  • are toxic to both humans and wildlife.

Because of these characteristics over 180 countries are committed to the convention.

POPs covered under the convention

There are 26 chemicals targeted by the convention.

The listed chemicals are divided into three annexes according to how each is produced and the level of restriction required.

  • Annex 1 contains a list of POPs to be eliminated.  The convention allows Parties to register specific exemptions for use or production of POPs listed in Annex 1.
  • Annex 2 lists POPs to be restricted to uses contained in the group.
  • Annex 3 lists POPs produced and released as unintentional by-products of specific processes. Parties to the convention are required to take measures to avoid the unintentional production and release of these chemicals.

See List of POPs, their description and use in New Zealand (PDF, 503 KB). The POPs are grouped by annex.

For more information about these chemicals see national implementation plans below.

New Zealand’s implementation of the convention

New Zealand's national implementation under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2006) (NIP) sets out how New Zealand proposed to meet our obligations for the initial 12 chemicals such as on: 

  • reducing dioxin releases 
  • completing the phase-out of PCBs
  • undertaking the environmentally sound management of POPs wastes such as obsolete chemicals and contaminated soils
  • environmental monitoring. 

In 2014, New Zealand submitted an addendum [Stockholm Convention website] to the first NIP concerning the 2011 listing of technical endosulfan and its related isomers.

In December 2018, we submitted New Zealand’s updated national implementation plan under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

It outlines measures to implement our obligations relating to new POPs added to the Stockholm Convention in 2009, 2013, 2015, and 2017. It also reports on New Zealand’s achievements in phasing out the 12 initial POPs.

What is New Zealand doing to meet Stockholm Convention obligations?

New Zealand has laws and regulations to tightly control POPs.

We implement the convention through:

Some of the measures taken by government department to implement the Stockholm Convention  

Environment Protection Agency (EPA):

  • administers the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 
  • with the Customs Service, it administers the Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Prohibition Order (No 2) 2004 and the Basel Convention. MfE registers specific exemptions  
  • promotes the safe interim storage and disposal of POPs through the Hazardous Substances (Storage and Disposal of POPs) Notice 2004, see Disposal section

Ministry for the Environment (MfE):

MfE and Ministry of Health:

  • undertake a biomonitoring programme (serum) for tracking the New Zealand population’s exposure to POPs.

Ministry for Primary Industries:

For more information on New Zealand’s measures to implement the convention see: 

The Stockholm Convention, together with the Basel Convention  and Rotterdam Convention create international rules for transboundary movement and safe management and disposal of some of the most hazardous chemicals and wastes in the world.

Action plan for dioxins and other Annex C chemicals

Parties to the Stockholm Convention must have an Action Plan to reduce or eliminate releases of dioxins and other Annex C chemicals. New Zealand’s Action Plan is contained in our updated National Implementation Plan [Stockholm Convention website]. 

What is dioxin?

'Dioxin' is a generic term used to describe a family of chlorine-containing chemicals called dioxins and furans. These unwanted and highly toxic 'by-product' chemicals are formed in very small amounts when chlorine is present in some industrial processes, and during the burning (combustion, incineration) of organic materials.

For further information about dioxins, see Dioxins and other organochlorines.

Dioxin emissions reduction

Dioxins are released to the environment in very small amounts through a number of industrial and domestic activities, particularly the open burning of wastes. New Zealand is obligated under the Stockholm Convention to take measures to reduce and where feasible ultimately eliminate releases of dioxin. Although levels of dioxins in New Zealand foods (including our meats, dairy products and fish) are low and below the World Health Organisation guidelines, it is prudent to further minimise our exposure to dioxins where practicable.

In 2004, MfE developed the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES)  as regulations under the Resource Management Act 1991. The NES bans certain activities that produce dioxins and other air toxins.

New Zealand undertakes an inventory of dioxin emissions to air, land and water, and reservoir sources every five years.

Inventories undertaken include: 

Further work on dioxin minimisation is set out in the Action Plan for Dioxins and other Annex C Chemicals, in New Zealand’s National Implementation Plan under the Stockholm Convention 2018. 

Disposal, stockpiles, and wastes of POPs and POPs contaminated sites

Disposal

New Zealand has clear regulations and guidelines in place for how to store, handle and dispose of POPs safely in the few situations where they are still present in New Zealand. The regulations and guidelines are set out in the Hazardous Substances (Storage and Disposal of POPs) Notice 2004 (PDF 277 KB) [EPA website].  For advice about disposal of POPs [EPA website]. 

Stockpiles

MfE, working with local government, is undertaking a national collection of agricultural chemicals in rural New Zealand. The programme has two stages. The first is to remove as much as possible the historical legacy of agrichemicals stored in rural sheds across the country. A key focus is the removal of POPs. 

The second is to put in place a longer-term and industry-led extended producer responsibility solution to manage and dispose of future unwanted chemicals. This is to ensure that we do not recreate the same problem in the future. One example of this approach is the Agrecovery rural recycling programme [Argrecovery website]. 

POP wastes

POP wastes must be exported for destruction. The disposal of POPs must comply with the Hazardous Substances (Storage and Disposal of POPs) Notice 2004 (PDF 277 KB) [EPA website] under the HSNO Act 1996.

New Zealand must also comply with the requirements for the environmentally sound management of POP wastes set out in the Basel Convention, the Waigani Convention and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Hazardous Waste Decision. See the Basel Convention web page

The Hazardous Substances (Storage and Disposal of POPs) Notice 2004 states that POP wastes cannot be disposed of to a landfill. Increasingly, with waste containing POPs such as flame-retarded plastic waste and hexabromocyclododecane- (HBCD-) containing polystyrene, the management of POP disposal is much more problematic.

MfE commissioned the following studies on e-waste containing brominated flame retardants in New Zealand.

Clean up of contaminated sites

Managing land contaminated by POPs is part of managing land contaminated as a result of broader chemicals use. New Zealand has a comprehensive framework for managing contaminated land.

This includes a mix of:

Monitoring of POPs in New Zealand

Studies to monitor the levels of POPs in New Zealanders and the environment include:

Reviewed:
07/03/19