Home LATEST NEWS 100 countries seeking a global plastic deal | The plastic enemy

100 countries seeking a global plastic deal | The plastic enemy


From packaging to clothing, construction equipment and medical, plastic is everywhere and its production reached 460 million tons in 2019.

But less than 10% is recycled and waste of all sizes has been found at the bottom of the oceans, in sea ice, the stomachs of birds and even in the ambient air on mountain tops. Not to mention the wild dumps.

A process of at least two years

The United Nations Environment Assembly, which is being held for three days in the Kenyan capital, should therefore launch formal talks on a treaty aimed at regulating the sector, by creating an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee. The process to come up with a text should take at least two years.

It’s a moment for the history books, enthuses Inger Andersen, Director General of UNEP, the UN specialized agency for the environment. According to her, such a treaty would represent the biggest multilateral environmental breakthrough since the Paris Agreement on the fight against climate change in 2015.

The topics to be covered

It remains to define exactly the contours of a future negotiation and the topics to be addressed.

Recycling only, or the entire life cycle plastic? Limitation of certain products, like more and more countries banning single-use plastics? Even production limitations?

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Several texts have been tabled, sometimes restricted to marine plastic pollution, which diplomats have tried to summarize before the conference. This will be discussed during the assembly, in the hope of arriving at a common roadmap for the negotiations, the launch of which will have to be decided by consensus.

Turn off the tap

For Mrs Andersen in any case, there is no doubt that it is partly necessary turn off the tap plastic and that we cannot get out of this situation just by recycling. If we keep polluting here and cleaning up there, it’s endless.

And very expensive, add many environmental NGOs, which estimate for example that a good twenty tons of plastic end up in the waters of the planet each year, a good part of which then ends up in the oceans.

Many countries have come out in favor of an international framework, including some very large users or producers, such as China or the United States. But often without committing to specific measures. The OECD has called for a response global and coordinated face the problem, while the production of plastic could still double by 2040 according to estimates.

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A treaty, but…

Large multinationals that consume a lot of packaging have also come out in favor of developing an international framework, such as Coca-Cola and Unilever.

Many are already worried about a possibly watered down result, like the NGO WWF, which claims to open the way to a text binding, ambitious (which) obliges States to respect a common standard of action and imposes limits on production and use.

Plastic bags in the trunk of a car.

Single-use plastic bags are increasingly banned.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Mark Baker

I think the world is ready for a change in our relationship to plastic, underlines Marco Lambertini, director general of the international NGO, who moreover published just before the conference the results of a survey carried out in 28 countries on all continents, showing that nearly nine out of ten people consider the conclusion of such a treaty.

We don’t just need a treaty that people can sign […]but has no teethabounds Erastus Ooko of Greenpeace Africa.

The meeting, canceled last year due to the pandemic, will take place face-to-face and partly in virtual format. Delegates will also focus on the actions for nature aimed at protecting biodiversity and combating climate change.

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