Global Plastic Pollution Agreement: A historic moment

Did anyone else get a little emotional watching the video as the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) reached a resolution to create an intergovernmental committee to negotiate and finalise a global treaty on the plastics crisis by 2024? More than 100 countries attended the UNEA summit- either in person or virtually in Nairobi, Kenya.

The United Nations have described this landmark announcement as “the most significant green deal since the 2015 Paris climate agreement” and have also stated the need for the agreement to have “clear provisions that are legally binding”

This treaty will put much needed pressure on multinational companies and industry as it will take into account plastic production, design and packaging. With plastics projected to double in output over the next 20 years, this announcement is surely an unwelcomed thorn in the side of big oil and chemical companies. Christina Dixon from the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “This resolution finally recognises that we cannot begin to address plastics in our oceans and on land without intervening at source.”

There was also much discussion about post-consumer waste and recycling, a desperately needed focus considering that 7 billion of the estimated 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced between 1950 and 2017 is now waste- 75% of that sitting in landfills or aquatic environments.

The treaty will also seek to formally recognise “waste pickers”, low paid workers often from developing countries who scavenge to recycle and upcycle plastic and other goods. These marginalised men, women and children who remove things we don’t wish to see are now being cast as environmental heroes- an announcement that affects millions of people.

Heidi Tait, CEO, Tangaroa Blue Foundation summed up the UNEA5.2 outcome:  “We are hopeful that the agreed mandate will provide a transparent, coordinated and holistic framework to address plastic pollution at the wide variety of sources from which it currently leaks into our environment. It is critical that a global plastics treaty is legally binding, but also that it tightly regulates greenwashing and non-compliance and scales from local community levels through to national and international levels if it is to truly have a chance to succeed at the scale at which it is desperately needed.”

The Global Plastics Treaty is absolutely critical to the future health of our planet and all of our collective effort over many years, as an organisation, as a community and as individuals has led us to here. But we must continue to show up, to make conscious decisions and continue the fight!

Photo: Benjamin Von Wong

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