About the convention

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the convention) is a multilateral environmental agreement that 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 (officially joined) the convention in September 2004. It entered into force (became legally binding) for New Zealand on 23 December 2004.

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants [UN Stockholm Convention website].

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.

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 persistent organic pollutants are

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic (carbon-based) chemical substances that have properties which can have significant negative effects on health and the environment.

  • 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.

Due to these characteristics over 180 countries are committed to the convention.

POPs covered under the convention

There are 30 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 A contains a list of POPs to be eliminated. The convention allows Parties to register specific exemptions for use or production of POPs listed.
  • Annex B lists POPs to be restricted to uses contained in the annex.
  • Annex C 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.

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 national implementation plan about the implementation of 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 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 convention obligations?

New Zealand has laws and regulations to tightly control POPs.

We implement the convention through:

Some of the measures taken by government agencies to implement the convention

Environment Protection Authority (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 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

More on New Zealand’s measures to implement the convention

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.

New chemicals added in 2019 

In 2019, two new chemicals were added to Annex A for elimination. These listings came into force on 3 December 2020:

Dicofol

This is a pesticide related to DDT. It is now prohibited in any country including New Zealand.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds

Many uses of this chemical are now prohibited internationally and in New Zealand. New Zealand has a five-year exemption under the convention for specific uses and a permit is required to import PFOA.

The specific use exemptions are:

  • photographic coatings applied to films
  • fire-fighting foam for liquid vapour suppression and liquid fuel fires (Class B fires) in installed systems including both mobile and fixed systems.

The use of PFOA fire-fighting foam is also controlled in New Zealand under the Fire fighting chemicals group standard [EPA website].

PFOA is part of a group of chemicals known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances PFAS. The Ministry for the Environment has been focused on these chemicals since issues related to their historic use in fire fighting foams surfaced in 2017.

For more information see PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances).  

Action plan for dioxins and other Annex C chemicals

Parties to the convention must have an Action Plan to reduce or eliminate releases of dioxins and other Annex C chemicals. New Zealand’s Action Plan is 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, furans and PCBs

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 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.

These 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 contact HSCompliance@epa.govt.nz.

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 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 [Agrecovery website].

POP wastes

POP wastes must be exported for destruction. Under the HSNO Act 1996, the disposal of POPs must comply with the:

Hazardous Substances (Storage and Disposal of POPs) Notice 2004 (PDF 277 KB) [EPA website]

New Zealand must also comply with the requirements for the environmentally sound management of POP wastes set out in the:

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.

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

Clean up of contaminated sites

New Zealand has a comprehensive framework for managing contaminated land. Land contaminated by POPs is managed under this framework.

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:

Cabinet papers