It's likely that negotiators from about 190 countries will leave a major United Nations environment conference in early March with a mandate for a global treaty on plastics waste and pollution.
Over time, that could lead to major changes in how plastics are regulated. But some of the specific impacts are less clear.
The biggest concern of industry groups attending talks at the U.N. Environment Assembly in Kenya is that the treaty will try to limit virgin plastic production.
The likelihood of that happening, though, depends greatly on how countries structure their national action plans — where they tell the world what exactly they are willing to do.
National plans play a big role in other environmental treaties, like the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Those national plans were the basis of commitments that governments brought to the COP26 climate meeting in Scotland in November.
In the same way, national plastics plans are seen by both industry officials and environmental groups as an important element for any plastics treaty.
In effect, they would give national governments substantial control over how any pact is implemented within their borders.
"We think national action plans are a critical part of this," said Stewart Harris, senior director of global plastics policy at the American Chemistry Council in Washington. "Our vision really comes back to this idea of governments need flexibility. They should be driving the solutions toward the overall goal."
Plastics News spoke with industry and nongovernmental organization officials headed to a meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya Feb. 28 to March 2, where national delegations are expected to adopt the broad overall framework for a treaty.
That would be followed by several years of negotiations to hammer out details that countries would then consider.
After that, nations would develop action plans to translate the treaty's goals for their situations and bring them to regular meetings like last year's climate summit in Scotland.
"There is quite a lot of emphasis on national action plans, or plastics pollution prevention plans," said David Azoulay, director of environmental health for the Center for International Environmental Law.
"It's one of the central ideas of what the treaty could look like because it is one with which most of the governments are most comfortable with at this stage," said Azoulay, who is at the talks in Kenya. "The idea of a global legally binding approach is less threatening if you know whatever is adopted will be adjusted to the country's specificities and to the country's capacity."