The Global Plastic Treaty: Slow progress in the International Fight Against Plastic Pollution

The Global Plastic Treaty: Slow progress in the International Fight Against Plastic Pollution

Despite positive steps taken in recent years in the European Union (for example, the SUP directive) and in Malta (particularly the BCRS system), the world is still drowning in plastic pollution. Malta is no exception, and plastic recycling alone is not the solution. In fact, Malta was the worst recycler of plastic packaging in the EU in 2021. This highlights the urgent need for a more effective approach.

Therefore, the world has begun discussions on an international agreement to genuinely combat plastic pollution. In November, the third round of negotiations for the Plastic Treaty took place. We’ll share insights of civil society organisations who took part in it on how we are (or are not) making progress in addressing the plastic crisis.

Due to influence of the petrochemical industry in the treaty negotiations, the low ambitions of plastic-producing countries, and overall lack of ambition by countries participating in the discussions, the third session of negotiations (out of five) concluded without concrete progress towards a comprehensive and legally binding treaty that will cover measures along the entire life cycle of plastic.

Despite the disappointing outcome of this negotiations, some countries, particularly from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the Africa group, strongly supported provisions on addressing plastic production, chemicals of concern, protecting human and environmental health, as well as human rights, recognizing the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, and defining the path for a just transition. 

However, the influence of a group of fossil fuel and plastic-producing countries overpowered these perspectives:

  • A whopping 143 fossil fuel and chemical industry lobbyists registered for this round of discussion, which is far greater than 38 Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty participants. Six Member States have fossil fuel and chemical company lobbyists in their delegation. 
  • Some countries, including Iran, Russia, India, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, rejected the fact that plastic polymers are pollutants, adding that the treaty scope and the definition of ‘plastic’ should exclude them.
  • Some countries still see waste management as an efficient method for dealing with the plastic production crisis.

Member States still have an opportunity to deliver one of the most significant environmental agreements in history by the end of 2024, but the chances are formidable, with only two more sessions remaining. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee must establish a strong conflict of interest policy and reassess how to deal with the countries deliberately blocking the ambition of the negotiation process. 

*Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash 

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