Towards a global treaty to end plastic pollution
Plastic pollution is a global problem with harmful consequences for human health and the environment. Every minute, 15 tonnes of plastic are released into the ocean; plastic debris accounts for 85% of polluting materials at sea. To combat plastic pollution on an international scale, in March 2022 the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a resolution launching negotiations on a legally binding treaty: the Global Treaty against Plastic Pollution.
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Plastic pollution in figures
Every year, around 460 million tonnes of plastic are produced, making plastic the third most manufactured material in the world, behind cement and steel. (Source: OECD)
Today, 81% of products made from plastic end up as waste in less than a year. Worldwide, only 9% of this waste is recycled, 20% is incinerated, almost half ends up in landfill and over 20% is abandoned in the environment. (source: EESC)
Worldwide, the equivalent of one plastic bin lorry per minute ends up in the ocean (source: The Plastic Atlas, 2020, published by the Break Free From Plastic movement).
What is the global treaty against plastic pollution?
The global treaty against plastic pollution is the direct result of a resolution adopted by the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2022. The resolution paves the way for a two-year negotiation process involving 193 countries, leading to a binding text containing measures that take into account the entire life cycle of plastics, from their production and consumption to their end-of-life. Once the text has been finalised, the Member States will be invited to ratify it.
To reach a final agreement in 2024, five negotiating sessions have been identified:
the first stage of negotiations will take place in Uruguay in November 2022 ;
the second stage will take place in Paris, starting on 29 May;
three other meetings will be held at the end of 2023 and twice in 2024.
What is the ambition of this treaty?
The first negotiating session in Uruguay laid the groundwork for future discussions, with the delegations setting out their expectations and ambitions. This meeting also provided an opportunity for a whole series of observers and organisations representing civil society to express their views and present their vision of the treaty.
The second stage will take place in Paris on 29 May. It will identify the main elements to be included in the treaty.
With a view to these negotiations, 52 countries anxious to obtain a treaty of maximum ambition have come together in the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution (HAC EPP).
Ahead of the first negotiating session in Uruguay, the members of this coalition published a ministerial declaration, calling for the adoption of the most ambitious treaty possible and reaffirming the political objective of putting an end to plastic pollution by 2040. A second declaration is also due to be issued before the Paris meeting.
The coalition stresses the need for a text that includes binding measures, based on existing international principles such as the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle and the waste hierarchy principle. The coalition is defending the inclusion in the future treaty of obligations and control measures covering the entire life cycle of plastics, in order to achieve a threefold objective:
to limit the consumption and production of plastics to sustainable levels ;
to promote a circular plastics economy that protects the environment and human health;
to ensure the efficient collection, management and recycling of plastic waste.