Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees to reach an Legally Binding Agreement on Plastics
The management of waste, specifically plastic recycling has seen a significant increase in importance on the international agenda in the past few years. In contrast to the comparatively low number and focus on the international conferences on these topics not even five or ten years ago, it’s amazing to see that over 2,000 people with national representation from 150 UN nations who attended INC-1 which took place in Punta del Este in Uruguay during a entire week.
In March 2022 In March 2022, The United Nations Environment Assembly agreed to begin negotiations to establish an international, legally binding agreement that will govern plastic across its entire value chain. The discussions will be conducted by five Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees (INCs) between 2022-2024, until a final document is made available for signature by UN Members States.
Around the globe all over the world, plastic production consumption, use and disposal is being regulated by a variety of national, municipal and international regulations that are usually inadequate when it comes to tackling issues that are global, such as marine plastics that know no borders and do not accept the sovereignty of nations. Like other environmental issues like climate change plastic pollution has a disproportional impact on countries of regions of the Global South, which are already enduring the effects of plastics that are not properly managed on the land.
The goal of these talks and the legally-binding agreement are obvious (i.e. the goal is to stop pollution from plastic) but its implications are extensive and ambiguous and show how plastic is an integral component of the global consumption model and our modern-day culture. Plastic is everywhere in everything from the clothes you wear, to containers that we use to ensure that food items imported from abroad can get to our tables safely and in the highest quality. Some plastics are able to be cut down without significant changes to global supply chains or methods of living (for instance, single-use items like drinking straws) and others, like the polymers that are becoming popular in the textile industry requires massive restructuring of entire areas in the economic system.
Although no definitive agreements were reached at INC-1 (the initial of five rounds of discussions) however, the meeting was crucial in establishing the boundaries and the main components of the document to be developed in 2022 through the close of 2024. For instance that all UN Members who attended endorsed the creation of a document that covers the whole value chain of plastics which includes its creation and design, its use as well as disposal. The funding and capacity building process are also required to be incorporated as in the document, especially to help the the global south regions during their transition.
We at Delterra We are convinced that to address the world’s waste problem it is essential to examine the entire value chain of every waste item, not just a particular group of substances, such as plastic. We collaborate with municipal authorities which are responsible for all waste produced within their area of jurisdiction in order to create an entire system transformation that includes behaviour change to support recycling with new collection routes, treatment infrastructures, the development of markets for materials that are recovered and the development of laws and partnerships that can ensure sustainability over the long term. However, the degree of global ambition shown in this first gathering is definitely inspiring as it continues to highlight the importance of a proper waste management in the global agenda.