In advance of the second session of the International Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-2), Monaco, Seychelles, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in collaboration with Norway and Rwanda, Co-Chairs of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution (HAC), convened a webinar linking the issues of enhancing a circular plastics economy, eliminating release of plastic into nature, and cleaning up existing plastic pollution.

During the 15 May webinar, panelists discussed possible provisions for the new treaty. David Toovey, Communications Advisor, Ministry of Environment, Rwanda, moderated the event.

Priya Sarma, Chair, Circular Packaging Association, UAE, and Head of Sustainability and Corporate Affairs at Unilever Middle East, identified key provisions for inclusion in the new treaty to ensure circularity. She underscored significant benefits from implementing packaging circularity, retaining the value of resources, and preventing leakage. She called for: adopting a comprehensive life cycle assessment and approach to materials; applying the polluter-pays principle and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to ensure a level playing field for all in the value chain; encouraging investment in large-scale recycling; and moving toward global metrics and standards. 

Wilfrid Deri, Ministry of State, Department of External Relations and Cooperation, Monaco, discussed potential mechanisms in the treaty to eliminate the release of plastic into the environment. He called for addressing all sources, especially microplastics, and said innovations in product design could lead to a reduction in releases.

Nanette Laure, Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Seychelles, addressed provisions to ensure existing plastic pollution is cleaned up. She highlighted challenges regarding waste management in her country, including lack of resources and capacity. She urged building on the work of ongoing initiatives and multilateral agreements with existing guidelines to see how best to incorporate them in the treaty and avoid duplicating efforts. She said the treaty should address educating the public, raising awareness, and changing behaviors.

Representing the scientific community, Alethia Vázquez-Morillas, Professor, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico, underscored the need to control chemicals of concern, which make up 20% of the more than 10,000 chemicals used to produce plastics. She said developed countries have advanced waste collection systems, while low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) often rely on the informal sector, with almost two billion people lacking formal collection systems that would help prevent leakage. Highlighting difficulties with removing plastic, particularly from the ocean, Vázquez-Morillas urged developing cost-effective and efficient clean-up technologies, as well as innovations in recycling technologies for recovered plastics. She called for agreement about plastic pollution in areas beyond national jurisdiction and for producers to be responsible for the impacts of their products along the entire life cycle.

Nao Takeuchi, Programme Management Officer, UN-Habitat, urged including a provision to enable cities and countries to provide adequate services to address plastic pollution. She said 88% of plastic waste generated from municipal solid waste is not recycled and underscored the need to invest in capital and operational expenditure in cities as municipal solid waste management in LMICs in severely underfunded. She said EPR systems can unlock private sector finance, shifting the burden from taxpayers to producers. Takeuchi explained that a just transition and decent job criteria are needed for vulnerable populations trapped in generational poverty, especially women and youth who are working in dumpsites without access to healthcare. She said the treaty must ensure implementation and enforcement for the integration of the informal sector.

Mercedes Muñoz Cañas, Marine Biodiversty and Blue Economy Manager, IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, discussed the need for the new treaty to ensure a just transition away from the informal sector. She called for funding mechanisms to assist the transition, capacity building and technology transfer, providing training for workers in the informal sector, and efforts to understand differing realities across regions. She outlined how the treaty could reduce the burden placed on vulnerable communities while helping to keep recycling costs low.

Arthur van Mansvelt, Senior Engagement Specialist, Achmea Investment Management, described his company’s role as an institutional investor and international asset manager whose stakeholders are interested in the plastic waste issue. He urged acting more swiftly, innovating to reduce single-use plastics, and focusing more on implementing reuse systems for packaging. He said if global financial flows are aligned with sustainable solutions, the private sector can be supportive and provide finance.

Jacob Rognhaug, Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, noted the Coalition includes 100 organizations across the plastics value chain. He stressed the need for legally binding rules and measures and for establishing and enforcing harmonized regulations. He said reducing virgin plastics, especially those produced from fossil fuels, was important to remain in line with the 1.5°C climate goal. He called for mandatory recycling requirements and clear targets for scaling systems and infrastructure to keep plastic in circulation for as long as possible at the highest value. He said EPR schemes should require all industry players to fund after-use collection and treatment, and the livelihoods, human rights, and health of informal workers must be respected.

The event was part of a series of webinars the HAC is convening in advance of INC-2, which will meet from 29 May to 2 June in Paris, France. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [Webinar Webpage] [High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Webinar on Eliminating and Restricting Hazardous Chemicals and Intentionally Added Microplastics in Plastic Products] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Eliminating and Restricting Single Use Plastics