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After a Slow Start, Plastics Treaty Talks Gain New Momentum at INC-4

Plastics Treaty Talks
Without curbing plastic production, it will be impossible to end plastic pollution.

Ottawa, Canada/Manila, Philippines. The Plastics Treaty fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) closed early yesterday morning, for the first time with draft text outlining pathways toward a global agreement. In a positive development, the draft text includes options for addressing the overproduction of plastic and eliminating toxic chemicals throughout the plastics life cycle. While these and other key issues remain contentious (with bracketed text, signaling ongoing discussions toward a final agreement), leadership from the Chairperson helped move the overall talks forward and create a plan for technical work groups before INC-5 in November in Korea.

“We greatly appreciate the Chair’s leadership and the delegates’ work to move the talks to this next stage,” said Pamela Miller, Co-Chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) and Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). Prior to the INC-4, ACAT and IPEN released a report highlighting the threats to the Arctic from plastics, chemicals, and climate change. “Coming from the Arctic, we experience the dramatic impacts of plastics and plastic chemicals,” Ms. Miller continued. “The Arctic is a source and sink for toxic plastic chemicals. We cannot wait – we need to substantially reduce the amount of plastic produced, prevent exposures to toxic chemicals, and ensure a just transition.”

In the intersessional period before INC-5, scientific and technical experts from member states will meet to identify and analyze approaches to identifying hazardous plastic chemicals in products, plastic products and design, and to address financing implementation. While IPEN looks forward to the intersessional work, the group is concerned that the INC failed to advance a proposal to include an intersessional group on options for addressing the overproduction of plastics.

Plastics Treaty Talks
Civil society activists push for a global cap on plastic production to address plastic pollution

”With fossil fuel producing countries and the industry planning huge increases in plastics production, it’s worrying that the negotiations are stalled on this vital issue,” said Yuyun Ismawati, an IPEN Steering Committee member and Senior Advisor to the Indonesian public interest organization Nexus3. “Plastic production creates plastic pollution. Every ton of plastics produced creates a ton of plastic pollution – and with it, releases of toxic chemicals that poison our food, water, bodies and our future. We will continue to call on delegates to take up the critical need to address production limits in the agreement.”

IPEN also cautions that throughout the negotiations there has been strong industry lobbying for and misleading statements around the need for more plastic recycling, resulting in a mandate for intersessional work focused on approaches for “enhancing recyclability.” This despite increasing evidence of the threats to health and the environment posed due to the inherent spread of toxic chemicals through plastic recycling.

During the week-long INC-4 talks, Indigenous groups from around the world joined in calling for recognition and participation of Indigenous Peoples in the Treaty talks. “The treaty must protect the health, well-being, and human rights of Indigenous Peoples and other disproportionately affected people everywhere,” said Vi Waghiyi, a Yupik grandmother from Alaska and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. “In addition to recognizing the harm to our Indigenous peoples throughout the world, we urge that the treaty recognize the special vulnerability of our Arctic region and Indigenous Peoples. The treaty must prevent harm to our health throughout the toxic death cycle of plastics.”

“Plastics and toxic plastic chemicals come across our borders with few or no controls or protections for our health,” said Griffins Ochieng, Executive Director of CEJAD in Kenya and co-chair of IPEN’s Plastic Working Group. “When wealthy countries export their plastic products and plastic waste, our communities, waste workers, and children experience greater health risks from harmful plastic chemicals, including endocrine disrupting chemicals and substances linked to cancer, infertility, and other serious health conditions.”

“The key solution to address the adverse impacts of plastics on human health and the planet is to scale down production and prohibit the use and addition of hazardous chemicals. Plastics that are produced with toxic additives cannot be part of the ‘circular economy’ and must be phased out,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition and co-chair of IPEN’s Plastic Working Group. “Techno-fixes, including chemical recycling, co-processing in cement kilns, co-firing in coal-fired power plants, and waste-to-energy incineration, will not solve the plastic pollution crisis. To prevent the formation and release of pollutants from plastic waste management, the treaty should prioritize environmentally sound and socially just policies and practices maximizing the potentials of zero waste strategies and non-combustion technologies.”

IPEN is eager to continue contributing to the Treaty development and offer delegates information and context from its 600+ global member groups from more than 120 countries. IPEN urges the INC:

  1. To clearly recognize that more plastic production means more plastic pollution. Without curbing plastic production, it will be impossible to end plastic pollution.
  2. To implement the health objectives of the treaty by eliminating hazardous chemicals that are used in plastic production.
  3. To ensure a toxics-free circularity by preventing the use and presence of hazardous chemicals in recycled plastics. Promoting recycling of plastics with hazardous chemicals will increase exposures and undermine the health objectives of this treaty.

For more from IPEN’s work at the INC-4, see the IPEN INC-4 web page.

EcoWaste Coalition
Let's make an eco-friendly, zero waste, and toxic-free Philippines a reality.
https://www.ecowastecoalition.org/