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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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:
- the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996
- the Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Prohibition Order (No 2) 2004 [New Zealand Legislation website]
- the Hazardous Substances (Storage and Disposal of POPs) Notice 2004 (PDF 189 KB) [EPA website]
- a range of government agencies cooperate to set rules and implement POPs management.
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.
- 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):
- implements the Action Plan for Dioxins and Other Annex C Chemicals to achieve release reduction or source elimination, see Action plan section
- administers the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund to help local government to assess and clean up contaminated sites throughout the country, see Disposal section
- provides national direction through the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004 and Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011
- administers the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, which provides funding for chemical (including POPs) recovery schemes through the Waste Minimisation Fund, and for product stewardship schemes. See Stockpiles and waste section
- monitors POPs in the environment.
MfE and Ministry of Health:
- undertake a biomonitoring programme (serum) for tracking the New Zealand population’s exposure to POPs.
Ministry for Primary Industries:
- monitors POPs in the food chain. See Monitoring of POPs in New Zealand section
For more information on New Zealand’s measures to implement the convention see:
- New Zealand's national implementation under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2006)
- National Implementation Plan Addendum 2014 [Stockholm Convention website]
- New Zealand’s updated national implementation plan under the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants (2018)
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.
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:
- New Zealand Inventory of dioxin emissions to air, land and water, and reservoir sources (published in 2000)
- New Zealand Inventory of dioxin emissions to air, land and water, and reservoir sources: 2011
- 2014 update of New Zealand Inventory of dioxin emissions to air, land and water, and reservoir sources
- 2018 update of the New Zealand inventory of dioxin emissions to air, land and water, and reservoir sources
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.
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].
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 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.
- Brominated flame retardant research: A cost-benefit analysis of sorting options for e waste plastics (2013)
- Brominated flame retardant research: A pilot study of e-waste plastic sorting in New Zealand (2013)
- Pilot study of brominated flame retardants in waste electrical and electronic equipment (2012)
- Investigation of brominated flame retardants present in articles being used, recycled and disposed of in New Zealand (2010).
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:
- legislation [New Zealand legislation website]
- regulation, see About the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health
- guidelines, see Contaminated land management guidelines, Guidelines that address contaminants from specific industries or activities and PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances)
- funding arrangements see Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund.
Studies to monitor the levels of POPs in New Zealanders and the environment include:
- A study on concentrations of persistent organic pollutants in serum of adult New Zealanders, the Ministry of Health, 2013 (PDF) [Public Health Massey website]
- Surveys on concentrations of persistent organic pollutants in the milk of New Zealand women, the Ministry of Health, 1988, 1998, and 2008 [Public Health Massey website]
- Surveys on New Zealand Total Diet Study, New Zealand Food Safety (a unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries), every 5 years [Ministry for Primary Industries website]
- A report on the targeted surveillance of milk from animals potentially exposed to petrochemical mining wastes, 2014 (PDF 277 KB) [Ministry for Primary Industries website]
- National Chemical Contaminants Programme – dairy products and raw milk [Ministry for Primary Industries website]