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Monday, July 15, 2024

Hopes upon treaty to curb plastic pollution

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The world needs a “strong, ambitious and just” treaty to cut down on the mass-produced plastics which are helping fuel the climate crisis.

Millions of tons of plastic end up in landfills, rivers and the ocean  every year with the potential to enter the food chain, damaging human health and the environment.

Ever since the  first world environment conference in Stockholm in 1972, environmental multilateralism has been growing, increasing pressure for a “binding international instrument” on plastic pollution.

Last week, negotiators from around the world have been meeting in Nairobi, Kenya for the third session of what is formally known as the    International Negotiating Committee (INC)  to discuss proposed text.

“We need a strong, ambitious and just plastic treaty, but that is only the first step,” says Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the secretariat, which came into being through a resolution in the UN Environment Assembly.

She told UN News that it’s time for everyone with a stake in the treaty to start looking at how it can be implemented―a process  she believes, can begin even before the treaty is fully adopted and enters into force. 

The negotiations process is at its midpoint now. And for the first time, a text of the future treaty is being discussed by the Member States in its ‘zero draft.’ The negotiators’ ambition is to have the final text ready by the end of next year and open for signing soon after.  

Mathur-Filipp, detailed progress so far saying that the momentum is there, and explained why tackling plastic pollution is so vital to protect human health and the environment. 

“We produce around 430 million tons of plastic a year, two thirds of which are short-lived plastics, which soon become waste. Plastic pollution can have devastating impacts on our ecosystems and wildlife, our health and well-being, and the global economy,” she said.

The packaging sector is the world’s largest generator of single use plastic waste. Approximately 36 percent of all plastic produced is for packaging. This includes single use food and beverage containers, 85 percent of which ends up in landfills or as hazardous waste.

Ninety eight per cent of single use plastic products are produced from fossil fuels or virgin feedstock.  

Micro-plastics can enter the body through inhalation and absorption by the skin and can accumulate in organs, including in the placenta. 

Some of the chemicals in micro-plastics are associated with serious health impacts, especially in women. Scientists have established links between exposure from chemical additives that leach from plastics with obesity, diabetes, poor brain health and even cancer.  

Research is still being done on the effects micro-plastics have on human health.

Additionally, due to limited and inefficient waste management infrastructure, 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned, 12 percent  of which consists of plastic. The burning of plastic waste has multiple health impacts, including increasing the risk of heart diseases and aggravating respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema.  UN News

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