Zero-Draft of Global Plastic Pollution Agreement Expected Within Months
Humanity produces around 460 million metric tonnes of plastic a year, and this will triple by 2060 if no urgent action is taken.

A zero-draft of a global, legally binding instrument on plastic pollution will be released before the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) in November.

This follows last week’s second INC meeting in Paris attended by delegates from 169 Member States and over 900 observers from NGOs. 

“I am encouraged by progress at INC-2 and the mandate to prepare a zero draft of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), urging member states to  “maintain this momentum”. 

“Plastic has been the default option in design for too long. It is time to redesign products to use less plastic, particularly unnecessary and problematic plastics, to redesign product packaging and shipping to use less plastic, to redesign systems and products for reuse and recyclability and to redesign the broader system for justice,” she added. “The INC has the power to deliver this transformation, bringing major opportunities for everyone.” 

The announcement was made shortly before World Environment Day, observed on Monday, and focused on the plastic pollution crisis amid the negotiations.

More than 430 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste, filling the ocean and often working their way into the human food chain, according to UNEP.

Plastics are accumulating in the world’s soils at a worrying rate, according to a report in UNEP’s Foresight Brief, which highlights how plastics used extensively in farming – from plastic-coated fertilizers to mulch film – are contaminating the soil and potentially threatening food security. Microplastics are also impacting human health when transferred to people through the food chain.

Overall, 46% of plastic waste is landfilled, while 22% is mismanaged and becomes litter. Unlike other materials, plastic does not biodegrade. This pollution chokes marine wildlife, damages soil and poisons groundwater, and can cause serious health impacts.

Action against plastics in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Caribbean sea is the second most polluted in the world, behind the Mediterranean, which is heavily polluted by sewage, oil and chemicals along with plastics.

In 2020, 3.7 million tonnes of plastic pollution entered the ocean from countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region (LAC), threatening the health and livelihoods of over 200 million people living on or near the coast.

In response, 27 of the 33 LAC member countries have passed national or local laws for the reduction, prohibition, or elimination of single-use plastics. However, the rates of recycling and waste recovery are typically less than 10% in the region.

Examples of this include bans on plastic bags, the earliest of which was introduced in Antigua and Barbuda in 2016.

Chile banned the use of plastic bags in 2018 and, in 2021, its Single-Use Plastics Law entered into force which prohibits food sellers from handing out straws, stirrers or chopsticks.

In its push to make the Galápagos Islands plastic-free, Ecuador phased out plastic bags, straws and polythene containers and bottles in 2018.

In 2019, Argentina established national guidelines to manage all aspects of plastics – production, use, waste management, and pollution reduction. It has also banned the production, importation and marketing of personal care products that contain plastic microbeads.

In Mexico, 31 of the country’s 32 states have established bans and restrictions on different single-use plastic and polystyrene, as well as on microplastics in personal care products. 

The Mexican government is developing a National Action Plan on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and developing its first National Inventory of Sources of Plastic Pollution, as a foundation for the Plan.

Panama banned plastic bags in 2019 and also launched the Panama National Marine Litter Action Plan 2022 – 2027 to eliminate the generation of marine litter.

In 2020, Panama regulated single-use plastics and a year later, it banned 11 plastic products including disposable plates, bags, laundry covers and egg packaging.

In 2019, Saint Lucia banned the importation of single-use plastic and Styrofoam, and in 2021 banned businesses from manufacturing, distributing or selling the prohibited items.

In March 2022, Belize, which has the second-largest barrier reef in the world, implemented a ban on single-use plastic and styrofoam items.
While Brazil has yet to implement its 2019 National Plan to Combat Waste in the Sea, the State of Rio de Janeiro banned plastic bags in 2018.

Colombia’s National Plan for the Sustainable Management of Single-Use Plastics aims to replace all single-use plastics with reusable, recyclable, or compostable products by 2030. In 2022, the country approved a bill to ban 14 types of plastic, including plastic bags, straws and fruit and vegetable packaging.

In 2021, Costa Rica introduced its National Marine Waste Plan 2021 – 2030 to reduce land-based waste streams that reach the sea.

Path to plastics pollution negotiations in Kenya

The INC Secretariat is inviting submissions from observers by 15 August and member states by 15 September on elements not discussed at last week’s meeting, such as the principles and scope of the agreement.

My appeal to you at the beginning of this session was that you make Paris count. You have done so, by providing us with a mandate for a zero draft and intersessional work,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary of the INC secretariat. “The momentum you have built up here in Paris will guide our work in the intersessional period and at our future sessions. I look forward to continuing our important work together and to welcoming you all to Nairobi for our third session in November.” 

Image Credits: United Nations Environment Programme, Florian Fussstetter/ UNEP.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.