Recently, the Plastics Industry Association published a special edition commentary regarding the U.N.’s environment resolutions. Patrick Krieger, Plastics Vice President for Sustainability, answers some common questions about the resolutions and what they mean for Plastics members.
“I’ve heard from a lot from members who are worried about what this means for the plastics industry,” said Krieger, “but I think it would be helpful for everyone to take a breath and not panic. We are still very early in the process and the difference between the early proposals and the document that was ultimately accepted makes me optimistic that the parties involved are open to industry’s fact-driven advocacy.”
Krieger added that the association will continue to need the facts and data that drive PLASTICS advocacy efforts, and that members are encouraged to be proactive about sharing any pertinent information.
What are the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) and UN Environmental Programme?
- UNEA oversees the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP). It is comprised of a representative from each UN member country and meets every two years in-person.
- UNEP was formed by the UN to promote international cooperation, provide policy guidance, and promote the exchange of knowledge on a wide variety of topics such as climate change, resource efficiency, natural disasters, and ecosystem management. It oversees much of the activity of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Past global agreements developed by the programme include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the Minimata Convention on Mercury, and the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer.
What was UNEA 5?
The assembly met in person in Nairobi, Kenya with a theme of “strengthening actions for nature to achieve the sustainable development goals.” Overall, they passed 14 resolutions on a wide variety of topics. Of the 14, 5 are relevant to the plastics industry:
- Resolution to End Plastic Pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument
- Resolution on an Enhancing Circular Economy as a contribution to achieving sustainable consumption and production
- Resolution on Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure
- Resolution on the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste
- Resolution for a Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution.
What is the Resolution to End Plastic Pollution?
This resolution directs the assembly to enter into negotiations to create a binding agreement on addressing plastics pollution in the marine environment. The intergovernmental negotiating committee is to begin later this year with a target date for completion by the end of 2024. The goal is to create a plan to prevent, reduce, and eliminate plastic pollution and to consider a multitude of options to accomplish this.
Is this resolution bad?
No! The Plastics Industry Association agrees that plastic litter in the environment is undesirable, and that solutions exist to curtail and reverse the amount of plastic that finds it way there through leakage. We issued a press release supporting the resolution. It’s also important to point out how much worse the agreement could have been as some of the original proposals included more explicit actions like product or production bans that would have been ineffective at addressing the primary problem and only sought to punish the plastics industry. Many anti-plastic environmental groups lobbied very heavily for more punitive language, and it is a credit to the assembly that they saw their way through this inflammatory rhetoric and created a resolution that allows for flexibility and calls for policies to be fact-based.
What’s next for PLASTICS?
Along with partner organizations who have a vested interest in this issue, we will continue to monitor, participate in, and inform the ongoing conversations around these resolutions, keeping the interests of our members uppermost in mind. We welcome any input or advice members would like to provide and look forward to collaborating with you as opportunities to achieve goals we all care about become available.
Plastics Industry Association, 1425 K Street NW Suite #500
Washington, DC 20005, United States, 202.974.5200
*Accede Mold & Tool Co., Inc. is an active member of the Plastics Industry Association.