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Talks on global plastics treaty heat up

UN Environment Programme releases draft agreement ahead of third round of negotiations

by Britt E. Erickson
September 6, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 30


Plastic waste accumulating in a marine environment.
Credit: Shutterstock
Negotiators are set to meet in November to discuss a global treaty to curb plastic pollution.

Governments from around the world, advocacy groups, and the plastics industry are preparing for another intense round of negotiations to hash out a global treaty on plastic pollution. The next meeting, to take place Nov. 13–19, in Nairobi, Kenya, is the third of five planned sessions.

To set the stage for the upcoming meeting, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a draft agreement on Sept. 4 called the zero draft. The document captures views expressed during the first two meetings, held in late 2022 and earlier this year, according to UNEP.

The draft provides a template of options for what could be included in a final treaty. It calls for national plans to phase out problematic plastics and update product design requirements to protect human health and the environment. But it does not resolve disputes over methods for getting rid of plastic waste, such as chemical recycling and incineration.

Environmental activists welcome the draft for including measures to minimize or eliminate chemicals of concern in plastics, as well as options to reduce short-lived and single-use plastic products. “But as always, the devil will be in the details,” Von Hernandez, global coordinator of #BreakFreeFromPlastic, a movement to end plastic pollution, says in a statement. Targets for reducing plastic production and criteria for eliminating problematic polymers and chemicals still need to be agreed upon, he says.

Negotiators hope to reach consensus on these and other thorny issues during the next three sessions. Their goal is to develop an international, legally-binding treaty by the end of 2024.



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