Whilst most people do want to do their bit for the planet, they also want to be able to live easily on their income. Making it easier and cheaper to avoid single-use plastic by encouraging retailers to stop selling it - or goods packaged in it - seems the most effective way forward, and the best way to do this seems to be through preventative laws.
The EU recently implemented a Directive on single-use plastics, which aims to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. Single-use plastic products cannot be placed on the markets of EU Member States if sustainable alternatives are easily available and affordable. This applies to various single-use plastic products, including cotton bud sticks, cutlery and straws.
A global approach now seems to be on the cards, with more than 70 leading businesses and financial institutions calling, in a formal statement, for a legally binding UN treaty on plastic pollution. Their statement is being made in view of the Fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) taking place this year in Nairobi (and online) from 28 February to 2 March.
UN Member States are being urged to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee at UNEA 5.2 to develop an ambitious international, legally binding instrument on plastic pollution that:
- Includes both upstream and downstream policies, aiming to: keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment, reduce virgin plastic production and use, and decouple plastic production from the consumption of fossil resources;
- Sets a clear direction to align governments, businesses and civil society behind a common understanding of the causes of plastic pollution and a shared approach to address them. For companies and investors, this creates a level playing field and prevents a patchwork of disconnected solutions, while setting the right enabling conditions to make a circular economy work in practice and at scale; and
- Provides a robust governance structure to ensure countries’ participation and compliance, with common definitions as well as harmonised standards applicable to all. This facilitates investments to scale innovations, infrastructures, and skills in the countries and industries most in need of international support.
All eyes will be on UNEA 5.2 to see if such a treaty is established and, if so, what it will set out. Could this be the beginning of a global fight against plastic pollution?