Waste Collects on the Shores of Timor-Leste. Picture by UN Photo/Martine Perret

UN’s Historic Plastic Pollution Resolution

On March 2, 2022 United Nations passed a historic resolution to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. This is remarkable resolution since it addresses the full lifecycle of plastic from source to sea.

Photo by John Cameron

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), plastic production has risen exponentially in the last decades and now amounts to some 400 million tons per year– a figure set to double by 2040. As we know, plastic pollution is a huge global issue that impacts all of us. However, many developing nations bear a heavier burden of the environmental impacts. Single-use plastics, such as bottles, bags and food packages most often end their short lifecycle polluting the oceans, being burned, or dumped into landfills.

The UN resolution is important because it takes into consideration of the whole life cycle of plastic from design and production to disposal. The resolution, entitled: “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument,” was adopted at the conclusion of a three-day UNEA-5.2 meeting. It is the result of years of international cooperation and growing public concern.

“Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP

Passing the resolution is just the first step forward. Now the member countries need to start working on the actual treaty. Some of the challenges ahead include agreeing on reporting standards, financing mechanisms, and plastic production itself. As you can imagine the plastic industry is not thrilled about the resolution. Joshua Baca, the Vice President for Plastics at the American Chemistry Council called restricting and regulating the production of plastic “a very shortsighted approach” already prior to the conference.

Here’s a great article that explains what’s at stake: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/03/plastic-pollution-treaty-un-environmental-assembly/627066/

More information about the resolution: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/what-you-need-know-about-plastic-pollution-resolution

UNEA President Espen Barth Eide (right), UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen (center) and Keriako Tobiko, Cabinet Secretary of Environment of Kenya, applaud the passing of the resolution. Picture by UNEP/Cyril Villemain