Representatives from 175 nations have agreed to comply with a legally binding global plastics treaty at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). This landmark agreement will address the root causes of plastic pollution, not just the symptoms!
Image: UNEP / Facebook
It’s The Biggest Environmental Resolution Since The Paris Accord!
In early March, at the UNEA 5.2 in Nairobi, Kenya, UN member states agreed to adopt a mandate for an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop a legally binding UN Treaty to address plastic pollution.
The legally binding agreement — set to be completed and implemented by 2024 — will address the “full lifecycle” of plastics, including production, consumption and disposal. The resolution also calls for product designs that align with a circular economy, which aims to keep resources in a continual loop to avoid waste.
“The resolution is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
Eliminating The Root Cause Of Plastic Pollution
So, why is this resolution so significant? Well, it’s the first time that UNEA has adopted a negotiation mandate for a legally binding multilateral environmental agreement, which will be mandatory for all Parties to participate in.
The resolution also calls upon all UN member states, and the private sector, to reinforce their activities to reduce plastic waste and pollution! It’s expected that all Parties will be required to self-report their progress to ensure transparency.
According to Ellen MacArthur, founder and chair of trustees of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “This is a key moment in the effort to eliminate plastic waste and pollution on a global scale. The mandate agreed by UN member states opens the door to a legally binding treaty that deals with the root causes of plastic pollution, not just the symptoms,” she said.
Image: Eco Warrior Princess
This Legally Binding Treaty Will “Design Out Waste”
Full lifecycle of plastic? Circular economy? Designing out waste? You're probably wondering what this all means! Basically, to build a circular economy, we need to promote the ‘circular design’ of products so that they can be reused, repurposed, recycled, or composted to prevent pollution.
Our current linear economy follows the take-make-dispose method of production and consumption. With this new legally binding agreement, companies that produce plastic-based products may be responsible for the full “life cycle” of the product, and importantly, how it’s disposed of.
This [UN Treaty] includes measures considering the entire lifecycle of plastic — to design out waste before it is created as part of a thriving circular economy”.
Image: Paulo Oliveira
Addressing Plastic Waste, From “Source To Sea”
INC discussions are set to take place this year, with a draft to be completed by 2024. Although we wish it would be completed sooner, it’s better late than never! Globally, it’s estimated that humans create 400 million tonnes of plastic waste per year — this number is set to double by 2040.
This legally binding agreement will not be focussed on penalising Parties that don’t hold up their end of the agreement. Instead, it will create a system in which everyone benefits from the new agreement. Basically, it will be in the interests of all stakeholders to participate in the new circular economy!
“Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic — with today’s resolution, we are officially on track for a cure,” said UNEA President, Espen Barth Eide.
This legally binding plastic pollution treaty is the first of its kind, and we’re looking forward to its implementation in 2024. This UN Treaty is set to tackle the root causes of plastic pollution, so hopefully, we’re entering into a new era of sustainable production and consumption.
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