A United Nations committee is convening on May 29 in Paris to work on a groundbreaking treaty aimed at ending global plastic pollution. However, reaching an agreement on the desired outcome remains a challenge. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is #BeatPlasticPollution and finding solutions to this monumental challenge is the key focus for negotiators. Approximately 7 billion of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced from 1950-2017 became plastic waste, ending up in landfills or dumped.
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Plastics has been assigned the task of crafting the world’s first international and legally binding treaty specifically targeting plastic pollution, including its impact on marine environments. This gathering which will be on till June 2 is the second in a series of five meetings scheduled to conclude negotiations by the end of 2024.
During the initial meeting, held six months ago in Uruguay, different countries advocated for various approaches, with some emphasisng global mandates, others favouring national solutions, and some supporting both. As per the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) report in April, over 430 million tons of plastic is produced annually, and a significant portion quickly becomes waste, polluting oceans and potentially entering the human food chain.
Projections indicate that global plastic waste production will nearly triple by 2060, with only a fraction being recycled, while about half is expected to end up in landfills. This data, provided by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), underscores the urgency of the treaty negotiations. Critical decisions regarding the treaty’s objectives must be made during this meeting due to the tight timeline. This coalition seeks to establish an international, legally binding instrument that eliminates plastic pollution by 2040. Their objective is to safeguard human health, protect the environment, restore biodiversity, and combat climate change by imposing limits on plastic production and restricting the use of certain chemicals in plastics.
Alternatively, the treaty could have a narrower scope, primarily addressing plastic waste management. It could promote the scaling up of recycling, a preference expressed by several plastic-producing and oil and gas-exporting nations and corporations. Many plastics and chemical companies also support this approach, aiming for a treaty that prioritises recycling while eliminating plastic pollution. They argue that plastic materials are essential for creating life-saving products and are crucial for achieving a lower-carbon, sustainable future.