Beat Plastic Pollution, the UN Treaty

Beat Plastic Pollution, the UN Treaty
  • PublishedJune 7, 2023

From May 29 to June 2, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee met in Paris. The 1000 delegates from 175 countries exchanged views on the fight against plastic pollution. They attempted to reach agreement on the first treaty drafting. Thus, this text would be the first legally binding document on plastic pollution.

The UNEP, United Nations Environment Program, aims at a decrease of plastic pollution by 80% here from 2040.

The resistance of plastic pollution

To achieve this goal, high-risk plastic products and polymer are to be banned. Plastic is used unsustainably in our society. The single use of plastic leads to impressive waste. In fact, around 500 000 000 000 plastic bags are used each year. In the absence of a proper recycling cycle, a large proportion of these bags end up in the ocean. An estimated 13,000,000 tonnes of plastic are discharged into the sea every year, equivalent to 30,000 tonnes a day.

This pollution creates plastic islands. Its short lifespan is offset by the time it takes to dissolve. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but take 1,000 years to decompose. However, if they do eventually decompose, they turn into microplastics. Erosion causes the particles to spread everywhere.

The omnipresence of plastic

Micro-plastic are the new threat. They are found everywhere and consume by everyone. Microplastics are often confused by fish and eaten as food. “Fish in the North Pacific ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal injury and death“. Therefore, plastic makes its way up the food chain to larger fish, marine mammals and human seafood eaters.

But macroplastics are also responsible for death. Whales, seabirds, turtles and fish are all victims.

Preventing plastic from reaching the ocean must be a priority. One of them would be to set up a refill and deposit system for bottles. An example already used in some Western countries, such as Germany. Money is given in exchange for the return of items such as plastic bottles.

Although the motivations are noble, politics is slowing down the process. Several Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia and joined by Russia, Iran, China, India and Brazil, have refused to authorize the treaty. They are calling for the treaty to be approved by a two-thirds majority vote if no consensus is reached.

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