A step closer to an international Treaty on plastics

03/03/22

Are we getting closer to a comprehensive regulation on plastics?


The 5th United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) met for a second time from February 28 to March 2, 2022. On the table of the discussions of these last three days: the creation of a committee that will deal with the drafting of the international treaty on plastic expected in 2024.


A HISTORICAL EVENT 


The frame for the international plastic treaty had already been on the table of discussions in the previous meetings of this assembly. Still, we have never been this close to reach it. Indeed, with the approval of an ambitious and global mandate for negotiations, we are one step closer to the adoption of the treaty. 

For many years, Surfrider Europe, alongside the Break Free from Plastic coalition, has been advocating and calling for support from decision-makers to adopt this global tool. The current texts about plastic pollution are fragmented and don’t deal with the full lifecycle of plastic nor its full impacts. We cannot settle for half-measures when facing the urgency of the plastic crisis. Therefore, a full process must be initiated to address comprehensively this pollution, that is to say, targeting the whole lifecycle of plastic and not only its end of life. 

Thanks to this historical event, an international treaty on plastic, to regulate its production and use, could take shape in the horizon 2024. The mandate for negotiations approved gives a favorable frame for effective and ambitious measures. It was a turning point to define the future negotiations on plastic which will lead to an unprecedent plastic treaty.

 


THE PLAGUE OF PLASTIC


With 400 million tons of plastic produced each year, and staggering forecasts estimating a fourfold increase in this figure by 2050, the climbing curve of plastic production does not seem to be decreasing any time soon.


We are truly talking about a plastic crisis, just as we talk about climate crisis” 

Gaelle Haut, EU Affairs Project Manager at Surfrider Europe 


Plastic interferes with all the aspects of our lives; 12 million tons are dumped in the ocean every year. Impacts observed on biodiversity and marine species are alarming: it is estimated that 90% of sea birds have fragments of plastic in their stomach. Marine fauna is directly victim of plastic pollution, as they mistake plastic for food while others get entangled, like as with abandoned fishing nets. 


Plastic can be found in our air, our water, and our plates, every day we are in direct contact with plastic, but at what price

Already heavily soaked with toxic chemicals, plastics have the additional capacity to absorb them. This chemical pollution leaves traces, traces that can be found in our bodies. 



LIMITING OUR PRODUCTION AND USE OF PLASTIC

Surfrider Europe calls out for decision-makers to adopt measures targeting the very source of the problem by reducing our production and consumption of plastic, starting with the single use and unnecessary ones. It is not only about pollution but about tackling the plastic stock and to handle its impacts on the ocean but also on biodiversity, habitats, climate, health - throughout its whole life cycle.
We are missing a global tool to deal with this crucial challenge, but today is a victory Surfrider Europe is glad to announce: a mandate of negotiation was approved for a comity that will define the content of the treaty.

Plastic has impacts throughout its lifecycle, from the extraction of raw materials to its end of life, therefore, adopting binding measures would reduce its harmful effects.
The “polluter pays” principle is part of these measures and involves the acknowledgement of the responsibilities of the pollution linked to the activities of the polluters, and for them to assume the cost of the pollution as well as of its impacts and to put an end to it. It implies the recognition of the Extended Producer Responsibility principle encompassing all the negative externalities of their products.

Thus, in the near future, it is possible to hope for a drastic reduction of our production and use of plastics and the devastating impacts they involve. This change will be possible under the impulse of the States and the civil society which has been calling for action for more than 30 years.
This victory is a big step, but ambitious negotiations must continue for a future that is not built on plastic foundations. 

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