What’s going on here?
A plastic treaty is being drawn up to be implemented in 2024, which would regulate the production, design, use and disposal of plastic on a global scale.
The treaty has been described as the most significant multilateral environmental deal since The Paris Agreement.
What does this mean?
At the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) last week in Nairobi, Kenya, 175 countries committed to negotiating the treaty. The terms would include better waste management, sustainable production and use of plastics, and removal of barriers into researching a new circular economy.
Plastic is a global problem and needs more regulations than those set by individual countries. This is because waste is often sent overseas to countries with more lax environmental rules and ineffective waste management. The trajectory of waste going from Global North countries to the Global South has been branded as “waste colonialism”. Furthermore, plastic mostly accumulates in our oceans making it hard to point the finger at anyone in particular.
This prompted the need for a framework to provide clear, global standards and regulate harmful products.
The treaty will target plastic’s whole lifecycle and supply chain. This would incite change in the amount of plastic that goes into products and not just focus on consumer behaviour. And most importantly, it’s legally binding.
Why should we care?
Discussions at the UNEA acknowledged that lower-income countries are disproportionately affected by plastic pollution. The treaty pledges to consider ways to finance waste management infrastructure in the Global South to meet the regulations of the treaty.
Delegations of waste pickers also attended the UNEA for the first time. More than 20 million people around the world work as waste pickers, playing an integral role in global waste management. Part of the treaty will introduce provisions to recognise their contribution, which has been mostly overlooked.
These acknowledgments signal a shift in policymakers’ approach to a more holistic and critical view of the plastic crisis, which has been previously regarded simply as a marine pollution issue.
- Read more about urban waste pickers in this Guardian piece.
- Check out the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers.
- Want to make your life more circular? Get some inspiration in our blog post about buying products that will last a lifetime.