Plastic Pollution Deal ‘Marks A Triumph By Planet Earth’

by · Forbes
Plastic and glass bottles and other detritus on a rubbish dump in Mexico city, Mexico, circa 2000. ... [+] (Photo by Christopher Pillitz/Getty Images)Getty Images

More than 170 nations across the globe have backed a historic UN resolution to end plastic pollution, with an international legally binding agreement to be in place by 2024. 

The resolution at today’s (2 March) UN Environment Assembly conference in Nairobi establishes an international committee, which will begin work on the agreement later this year.

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said the agreement “marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics” and added is was the “most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord”.

It is expected the agreement will address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology.

“It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.” added Andersen.

Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Japan’s environment minister, whose draft resolution contributed to the final resolution, commented: “The resolution will clearly take us towards a future with no plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. United, we can make it happen. Together, let us go forward as we start the negotiations towards a better future with no plastic pollution.”

A report published last month by the OECD, which warned only 9% of plastic waste is successfully recycled, outlined the scale of the problem. 

According to the OECD Global Plastic Outlook report, the average person in the United States generated 221 kg of plastic waste a year, compared to 114 kg in Europe.

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It also claimed most plastic pollution comes from inadequate collection and disposal of larger plastic debris known as macroplastics, but it conceded the leakage of microplastics is also a serious concern.

The report also found that the Covid crisis led to a 2.2% decrease in plastics use in 2020 as economic activity slowed, but a rise in littering, food takeaway packaging and plastic medical equipment such as masks has driven up littering. 

But as economic activity resumed in 2021, it noted the amount of plastics consumed also rebounded.

A report published last month by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also highlighted concerns about chemical-based ways of recycling plastic, which it concluded could even pose risks to human health.

Commenting on the UNEP announcement, the WWF’s chief conservation officer, Nik Sekhran, said: “As we strive toward securing a healthier future for people and the planet, today’s decision sets us on an ambitious mission to solve our plastic pollution crisis and to achieve a strong circular economy. 

“In the next two years, we must work to ensure this treaty reaches its full potential. We are committed to ending plastic pollution and to working with governments, businesses and civil society to meet the commitments laid out in this impressive framework.”