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First Day of Plastics Treaty Negotiations Reveals Key Contradictions Between Countries

First Day of Plastics Treaty Negotiations Reveals Key Contradictions Between Countries

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The ongoing 4th session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC4) in Ottawa, Canada, is a pivotal event in the global fight against plastic pollution. This crucial meeting unites representatives from numerous countries to discuss and potentially agree on a worldwide strategy to combat plastic pollution, particularly in the marine environment.

Key contradictions between countries during INC4 include the following approaches :

High Ambition Approach: This approach, backed by many countries, aims for a comprehensive treaty to address plastic pollution across its entire life cycle, as mandated by the UN Environment Assembly (Resolution 5/14). It entails managing plastic production from its inception through production, sale, use, and disposal (including waste collection and recycling). The objective is to significantly decrease plastic’s overall impact on human health and the environment.

Limited Action Approach: This group, primarily comprising major plastic producers, advocates for a less strict treaty focused solely on recycling existing plastic waste. They prioritize post-consumer waste management (such as enhanced waste collection) while steering clear of regulations that could impact current production levels and plastic pollution throughout the product life cycle.

These perspectives highlight a fundamental disparity in how countries prioritize environmental protection and economic interests. The high-ambition approach underscores preventive measures to minimize future plastic pollution, whereas the limited-action approach aims to alleviate existing issues without addressing their underlying causes.

An important issue on the negotiating agenda will be creating a list of toxic chemicals to be banned or severely restricted in plastics. This list would be significantly broader than the Stockholm Convention’s list of persistent organic pollutants, as it would include toxic, mobile, bioaccumulative, degradable, mutagens, carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, endocrine disruptors and other substances of concern for their health and environmental impacts. More than 4,000 chemicals used in manufacturing plastic materials and products are known to be toxic. Information on more than 12,000 substances does not state that these chemicals are safe for humans and the environment.

However, having such a list of chemicals will not solve the problem of their use in plastics. Chemicals’ presence in plastic must be disclosed, allowing government agencies, plastic producers, consumers, and recyclers to make decisions based on this information. To this end, the draft plastic treaty includes Chapter 13 on the disclosure and traceability of chemicals in plastic, their monitoring and labelling, and the creation of a global database accessible to all stakeholders, which should include data on chemicals in individual plastic products.

The outcome of INC4 carries significant weight in the global fight against plastic pollution. A robust, comprehensive treaty could be a transformative force, paving the way for a cleaner, healthier planet and demonstrating the global commitment to addressing this pressing environmental issue.

You can follow developments through official channels such as 

UNEP website: https://www.unep.org/inc-plastic-pollution, 

the BFFP website: https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/ 

Keep an eye on our information. We will report on the most interesting issues to be discussed at INC 4.

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Written by Olga Speranskaya

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