The V Assembly of the United Nations for the Environment (UNEA), the main body for making environmental decisions in the world, agreed this past Wednesday to promote the first global treaty against plastic pollution.
To achieve this, it established the creation of an intergovernmental negotiating committee with the mandate to negotiate this international instrument, which will be approved at the next UN Assembly, to be held in 2024 (UNEA-6).
The objective of the treaty is to create coordinated public policies and regulations in all countries to address the problem, instead of the isolated measures that are currently taken in each country. In addition, it seeks to attack the threat of plastic from a life cycle approach, from production and transportation, to consumption and disposal.
Creating a framework
“After many hours of negotiation, we came to the creation of this Committee of countries that would create a framework to work in a coordinated manner, something that would change the world forever. We believe in decisions based on science and there is already enough data to ensure that plastics seriously affect coastal and marine ecosystems, also affecting the safety and health of human beings,” said Alberto Quesada, from Fundación MarViva, which participates and technical support in the negotiation process for 4 years.
The Latin American countries were present at the negotiation, and were leaders in promoting the treaty. Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Cuba, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Antigua and Barbuda are some of the nations that provided inputs and proposals.
“Last year 8 million tons reached the ocean and all countries are responsible for this figure. We celebrate this decision, the world is facing one of the biggest environmental emergencies and this agreement reached is in the right line that will allow us to put an end to this problem”, said Quesada.
A life cycle approach
Experts say that focusing on plastic as a waste-only problem is insufficient. Since the 1950s, humans have produced more than 9 billion tons of plastic, much of it single-use, and more than half of that total has been produced since 2000. More than three-quarters parts, has already been disposed of, and around 80% has ended up in landfills or in the environment.
According to Quesada, during the work sessions it is recognized that recycling is important but it is not enough to deal with this global emergency. To date, only 9% of plastic has been recycled, both because certain types of plastic cannot be functionally recycled and because, of those that can, recycling is less profitable than producing it from scratch.
“Measures must be taken considering the entire life cycle of plastics, measures that allow reducing the production of non-recyclable plastics, single-use plastics, that manage to close the cycles towards a safe circular economy, strategies to reduce consumption and increase that of products alternatives or substitutes”, added Quesada.