With the first round of negotiations for a global plastics pollution treaty starting later this year, advocates for a more robust agreement are using the U.N. General Assembly session in New York to try to steer the talks.
A coalition of consumer product makers, financial institutions and a few plastic firms, for example, issued a call Sept. 21 for the treaty to move away from fossil fuel-based plastics, cut back on single-use packaging and restrict materials they consider problematic for recycling or composting.
The group, the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, includes major plastic packaging makers like Amcor Ltd., Alpla Inc., Greiner AG and the Aptar Group Inc., along with resin maker Borealis AG.
"We want to help land an effective treaty, with clear goals and robust policy measures to deliver them," said Henri Bruxelles, chief sustainability officer with coalition member Danone SA. "This is the only way we can build a packaging system that eliminates both leakage into the environment and dependency on fossil fuels."
He called the treaty "a critical opportunity to address systemic barriers to plastics circularity, including those linked to collection systems, reuse infrastructure and availability of recycled material."
Similarly, diplomats from a coalition of countries also seeking a strong treaty told a Sept. 21 online forum on the sidelines of the General Assembly session said they want the pact to set goals to "restrain" plastics use and end plastics pollution in the environment by 2040.
"That's quite an ambitious goal," said Espen Barth Eide, Norway's climate minister. "In principle, I'd like to stop it tomorrow but given the amount of plastics that are used throughout the world, I think this is as ambitious a goal as we can get."
Eide, one of two co-chairs of the 20-nation High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, said he believes businesses are starting to look seriously at changing how they use plastics, after the United Nations Environment Assembly in March voted to move forward on a legally binding plastics treaty. Eide also chaired the UNEA meeting.
He said some businesses see that the treaty talks, which are on a fast timeline to be completed by 2024, will change the regulatory environment around plastics.
"Many of our partners and friends in civil society and in the business sector are telling me that the mandate from UNEA is already understood; people are already working … to change their production cycles to start preparing for a world where this is better regulated than it has been today," he said.
"A number of companies who are either producers or consumers of plastic containers or packaging are starting to deal with this, so there is quite a good momentum," Eide said.
Environmental groups said they supported the coalition. The Center for International Environmental Law said those countries were highlighting the “urgent need to address the problem at the source” and limit plastic production.