In March 2022, the United Nations member states endorsed a resolution to end plastic pollution, and to create a legally-binding treaty designed to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic throughout its lifecycle. Last month, September 2023, the highly anticipated Zero Draft of the Treaty was published. The draft will guide the discussions at the next Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, knows as INC-3, which will be held in Kenya in November 2023, followed by INC-4 in Canada around May 2024.
What will the Treaty do?
The only way to solve the complex plastic pollution problem is to address the whole plastic lifecycle, and that’s exactly what this Treaty aims to do. It will be a legally binding agreement offering alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for international collaboration to share technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation. Because plastic pollution is a trans-national problem, meaning it doesn’t recognise country borders, it was vital to get the involvement of as many countries as possible. And because the treaty will be legally-binding, all the countries who agreed to it will have to comply with it.
So why is a zero draft needed, and what does it say?
Clearly, writing a treaty that encompasses every stage of the plastic lifecycle – from design and production to use and disposal – will be incredibly complex. On top of this, the treaty needs to be enforceable in and acceptable to every country that signs it. No mean feat! Some of the key issues that the negotiating teams will be hashing out over the coming months include:
- avenues for reducing plastic production
- eliminating polymers and ‘chemicals of concern’
- eliminating short-lived and ‘avoidable’ plastics
- creating targets and systems for plastics reduction and reuse
When will the Treaty come into effect?
It is expected that it will take at least a year of discussions and negotiations for the Zero Draft to become the Final Draft. The goal is for the actual Treaty to be signed and become legally-binding in mid-2025. But, of course, this depends on the delegates being able to reach agreement on the many complex issues that fall within the treaty’s remit. We wish them luck – the fate of the planet lies in their hands!