April 17

Press Release: Penultimate UN Talks on Global Plastic Pollution Treaty Will Make or Break the Treaty: WWF

As negotiators head into the fourth and penultimate UN talks on a global plastic pollution treaty, known as INC-4, a WWF analysis of states’ submissions to the treaty’s revised draft text shows that the majority of states support ambitious and legally-binding global rules across the plastics lifecycle (see Figure 1 in Notes to Editors).

Despite overwhelming support for a binding global treaty, governments have faced continued push back from a small group of states with more of an interest in protecting profit rather than people and planet. Now with only two rounds of negotiations remaining, what governments decide at the end of the week-long negotiations in Ottawa could make or break the treaty.

To get an effective treaty by the end of 2024, governments must now prioritize agreeing the key measures that will have the biggest impact on plastic pollution – in particular, global bans on the most harmful and avoidable single-use plastics; binding, global requirements on product design and performance to ensure reduction, reuse and safe recycling for all plastic products; and to underpin it all, a robust financial package.

Fewer than 10 states want to see any such rules removed from the treaty’s final text. Despite limited support for such a move, at previous rounds of negotiations, some of these states have managed to delay and upend proceedings acting against the unanimous decision made in 2022 for a global instrument to end plastic pollution. Negotiators heading into INC-4 must focus on creating the broadly supported global rules needed to end plastic pollution and not allow a handful of countries to stifle progress.

“INC-4 is make or break for this treaty and we need to gain a lot of ground in quite a short period of time. Therefore, governments must urgently come together on the key global measures that will have the biggest impact on plastic pollution. They have the support in the room and the support of their citizens. They now need to make their combined ambition a reality. Anything less at this stage in the negotiations would risk the implementation of a meaningful treaty and accelerate the plastic pollution crisis,” said Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Lead, WWF International.

Global, legally-binding rules will not only level the playing field for countries and companies alike, they can help to scale solutions, spark innovation and mobilize investments across the plastics value chain. They will also distribute the burden of addressing plastic pollution more fairly amongst states by ensuring plastic production, usage, disposal and recycling decisions are more equitably addressed than they are now. Currently, the environmental, social and economic costs of plastic throughout its life cycle are eight times higher for low- and middle-income countries than high-income countries.

So far, national and voluntary measures have proven ineffective in tackling the worsening plastic crisis. Continuing down this path would only exacerbate the issue and keep the burden of plastic pollution on low- and middle-income countries.

“Plastic pollution most often disproportionately burdens low- and middle-income countries, with the bulk of the world’s pollution either imported to or washing up on their shores. But this doesn’t mean richer countries are protected from the devastation plastic waste can wreak on communities. This universal suffering is the reason why public surveys show almost unanimous support for a global treaty with common legally-binding rules. The vast majority of people worldwide are sick and tired of voluntary half measures. It’s time our leaders put into action what their constituents have been calling for,” said Adil Najam, President, WWF International.

Recently, an Ipsos poll released by WWF and the Plastic Free Foundation showed that 85% of people worldwide want a global ban on single-use plastic products. Most of the products that pollute and damage our planet are single-use items. Many of these are unnecessary and need to be immediately banned or significantly phased down.

To account for and facilitate this shift, we need to utilize and invest in comprehensive reuse systems. WWF’s latest Unpacking Reuse in the UN Plastics Treaty report highlights the five most promising product groups for reuse and gives guidance on how reuse can effectively be integrated into the treaty unfolding its full potential as one of the most important levers of the circular economy to reduce plastic pollution.

With 60% of plastic waste derived from urban centres, cities are on the frontline of the global plastic crisis. Another WWF report, Case Studies from Asia: City-level Learnings for the Global Plastic Pollution Treaty, finds that cities, as the ultimate implementer of practical actions for plastic pollution, need global bans and requirements to provide them with the authority and resources to address challenges that are usually beyond their jurisdiction, and that can enable city-level solutions to scale.

Bans can also serve as catalysts for entire industries to prioritize research and development efforts towards reuse and refill solutions. This, in turn, encourages increased investment in alternative distribution systems centered around refilling and reuse, ultimately fostering economic growth.

Source: WWF (link opens in a new window)

impact measurement, recycling, regulations, research, waste