Another step towards a Global Plastics Treaty
The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop a new international treaty on plastics took place at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, France, from May 29 to June 2 2023, with more than 1700 participants from 169 Member States and over 900 Observers from NGOs. This meeting stemmed from the adoption of a resolution at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5/14) in February 2022 to develop a legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution based on a comprehensive approach addressing the full life-cycle of plastic. This new Global Plastics Treaty will be developed through five Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meetings during the period 2022 to 2024. The aim will be to complete the drafting of a new UN Convention in 2024 for signing by country delegations by mid-2025.
In his keynote speech, France’s President Emmanuel Macron stated that eco-design and recyclability had to be at the heart of the new treaty, with all new plastics placed on the market needing to be 100% recyclable. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), added: “Raw polymer should not be cheaper than recycled polymer. Recycled polymer should become more valuable.” BIR gave voice to the key messages of the global recycling industry, with its delegation in Paris including Alev Somer, BIR Deputy Director for Trade & Environment, and Adam Shaffer, AVP of International Trade and Global Affairs at the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
Following tough negotiations on the rules of procedure in the first half of the week, Parties made some progress on the scope and substantive provisions (core obligations and control measures, as well as voluntary measures). The issue of recycling of plastics came into sharp focus, with some scientists contending that there is, as yet, no safe way to recycle plastic given the high volume of toxic additives in most plastic products. While many were holding on to the hope that the world can transition to a toxic-free and circular plastics economy, there were also more urgent calls to drastically reduce plastic production. The discussions took a positive turn with strong support for recycled content targets, design for recycling and financial mechanisms to support the uptake of recycled plastics. At the conclusion of the week, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee agreed to move forward with a zero draft of a Global Plastics Treaty for its third session, which will be held at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2023.