26 April 2019: UN General Assembly President (UNGA) Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces has requested UN Member States’ delegations to consider limiting their consumption of single-use plastic both inside and outside of UN Headquarters. Espinosa also informed governments of imminent changes being made on UN premises to reduce plastic waste.

In a letter to UN Member States, the UNGA President suggests that delegations strive to demonstrate a commitment to the natural environment and the sustainable development agenda by:

  • Limiting consumption of single-use plastics where possible, and avoiding bringing them into the UN Headquarters building;
  • Ensuring that any waste is disposed of in the correct bin to maximize the amount of waste that is recycled; and
  • Encouraging others to also change their behavior.

The letter also updates governments on the UNGA President’s campaign to reduce plastic pollution and single-use plastic. Espinosa writes that the campaign, with the support of Member States and in partnership with the UN Secretariat, has been considering ways for UN Headquarters in New York to reduce its consumption of single-use plastics. These efforts follow on steps already taken by UN offices in Bangkok, Geneva and Nairobi. Espinosa informs Member States that “there are many changes underway … that will be noticeable in the coming weeks,” related to the products available in eating venues at UN Headquarters.

In June, the campaign will organize the ‘Play it Out’ Festival in Antigua and Barbuda.

Tackling plastic pollution was among the themes Espinosa highlighted for UNGA 73 at its opening in September 2018. In December 2018 Espinosa launched a global call to action on plastic pollution with the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Norway, with a focus on phasing out the use of single-use plastics and raising awareness of the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. The campaign aimed to support complementary efforts by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) (such as the #BeatPlasticPollution initiative and the Clean Seas Campaign), National Geographic and Global Citizen, among others. It launched with two focal areas: global advocacy in collaboration with Member States and UN agencies to reach the public; and internal initiatives to reduce plastic use within the UN.

In partnership with the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, and Norway, as well as UNEP, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the Krimm Group (TKG), Lonely Whale and National Geographic, the UNGA President’s office is organizing the ‘Play it Out’ festival to help raise awareness of plastic pollution. The festival will take place on 1 June 2019 and will be live-streamed globally. Details of the festival will be announced on 30 April by Espinosa, singer Ashanti, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, Permanent Representative of Norway Mona Juul and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda Walton Webson. [UNGA President’s letter to UN Member States] [Campaign webpage]