As the third round of global plastics treaty talks ended under a cloud Nov. 19, signs of some splits over priorities emerged between the plastics industry and other business sectors.
In comments Nov. 20, a group of mostly plastics resin makers active in the negotiations, the Global Partners for Plastics Circularity, emphasized demand-side solutions like boosting recycled content and improving waste collection.
A coalition of investors and major consumer brands, however, said the treaty should broaden to include supply-side solutions like reducing plastics production and restrictions on "problematic" plastics or chemicals.
That group, the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, also backed better recycling and waste management.
The differences between industries over how broad the treaty should be mirrored differences between nations at the talks, which stalled on some key issues as oil and petrochemical producing nations pushed for a more limited vision of the treaty.
Negotiations concluded late in the day Nov. 19 with some key topics unresolved, including, importantly, a lack of agreement on moving forward on official technical work to lay the groundwork for a more substantive next round of talks.
While the talks faced difficulties, the plastics firms said in their official statement that they saw gains in the third meeting of the treaty's intergovernmental negotiating committee, or INC, which wrapped up seven days of meetings at United Nations offices.
Two more rounds are planned in 2024, with the next one in late April in Canada.
"INC-3 made progress towards an effective and practical plastics agreement," said Benny Mermans, a spokesman for the GPPC and vice president of sustainability for Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. "The [GPPC] commend government negotiators for improving the Zero Draft by adding additional elements needed to accomplish the agreement's intent — ending plastic pollution."
GPPC said the talks made headway but it called for stronger language around circularity.
Mermans, who is also the chair of the World Plastics Council, saw growing support for better product design, more reusable packaging, improved financial mechanisms and waste infrastructure.
GPPC sees demand-side investments as the path forward for making plastics more circular.
"This can be best accomplished by creating demand signals that will unlock investments in product design innovations, collection and recycling infrastructure, and financing systems that incentivize circularity to keep used plastics out of landfills, incinerators and our environment," Mermans said.