28 February 2024
UNEA-6 Side Event Highlights Reuse as Climate and Plastic Solution
Photo Credit: Atonie Giret on Unsplash
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Speakers stressed the need to incorporate packaging reuse options into the negotiations on a new international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

Recalling that reuse used to be the norm, but increased use of single-use plastics has diminished its role, they discussed the importance of developing standards and called for work on harmonizing definitions of reuse and circularity to begin now.

At the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) in Nairobi, Kenya, the delegations of Chile and Fiji, jointly with PR3: Global Alliance to Advance Reuse, convened a side event, which discussed opportunities and challenges inherent in promoting reuse systems. Participants highlighted such systems could lead to a 90% reduction in packaging production as well as significant decreases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary of the meeting, speakers stressed the need to incorporate packaging reuse options into the negotiations on a new international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Recalling that reuse used to be the norm, but increased use of single-use plastics has diminished its role, they discussed the importance of developing standards and called for work on harmonizing definitions of reuse and circularity to begin now.

Director of Varda Group Rémi Parmentier facilitated the discussion. He highlighted the importance of design and performance standards and criteria in the context of ongoing negotiations towards a plastic treaty.

Maria Alejandra Guerra, Permanent Representative of Chile to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted that less than 10% of plastic waste is currently recycled, and the food and beverage sector is responsible for nine of every ten items collected. She said Chile considers reuse critical as it prolongs the life of materials.

Filimoni Vosarogo, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Fiji, highlighted the need for safe and sustainable reuse systems, noting these systems should be designed to be nature-positive and create jobs. He emphasized the need for standards and criteria to account for the opportunities and challenges small islands face. Vosarogo anticipated that the need to address plastic pollution will be front and center at the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda in May.

Tiza Mafira, PR3: The Global Alliance to Advance Reuse, emphasized:

  • Reuse has better environmental impacts than recycling;
  • Reuse is not an issue of packaging but a system that requires standards to instill confidence for investment in the reuse industry;
  • The development of standards requires inclusivity and must ensure interoperability; and
  • Reuse is not just a waste solution but also a climate solution.

ENB notes that during the discussion, participants highlighted reuse as a place-based solution that takes into account local realities. Representatives from African and Chinese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called for more effective action in their respective countries. A representative from the private sector noted the need for supply chains that enable reuse and the decarbonization of logistics for reuse, given that many companies have made net-zero commitments. [ENB Coverage of UN Plastics Treaty: Reuse – a Climate and Plastic Solution]


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