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The birth of the UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

On November 28 in Punta del Este (Uruguay) began the first of five scheduled sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international treaty on plastic pollution.

The ambitions are high and the goal set: To achieve, by 2024, a “legally binding international instrument” which covers all pollution generated by plastics.

The UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi agreed earlier this year that the future text should lay on 3 main principles

  1. The agreement incorporates binding and voluntary measures to end plastic pollution.

  2. The agreement covers the entire life cycle of plastic, from fossil fuel extraction to post-consumption disposal.

  3. The binding and voluntary measures should cover both marine and terrestrial pollution.

If the result of the treaty is not yet known, the INC already stipulated the importance of limiting the multiplication of chemicals used to create plastics. The thousands of additives make the recycling of most plastic materials extremely difficult or impossible to recycle.

More than 90% of the plastic produced yearly (400 million tons) will never be recycled.

More than 70 NGOs spoke up for more transparency and accountability regarding the use of these hazardous chemicals.

If speculations around the nature of the text are numerous, it can be hoped that the strong ambitions will not be diluted in a fragile binding document with unclear and unsubstantial measures.

The U.S. in a position of authority will be able to make or break the first-ever bounding plastic pollution treaty.

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