29 May -2 June 2023 - The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), or INC-2, is being held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, to develop a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution (plastic pollution in the oceans). Among them, countries and activists are arguing over how, or whether, a United Nations global plastics treaty being negotiated in
1. Marine plastic waste
A key point of contention is whether an agreement should focus on cleaning up the plastic waste that has clogged the world's oceans, or whether it should expand that scope to limit the production of potentially harmful ingredients in polymer products or even enforce a ban on plastic use. The
At the end of November 2022, the first intergovernmental negotiation on plastic pollution control of the United Nations was successfully held, which marked that the collaborative treatment of plastic environmental leakage has become a global consensus. And after agreeing in December to produce a legally binding deal on plastic pollution by 2024, negotiators hope to have a draft by the end of this round of talks.
2. Different points of view from different institutions
"This will be the first real draft text of an internationally legally binding agreement," said Anja Brandon, a member of the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. "It will be very, very difficult to add to it after that. So that becomes the basis on which all other dialogues and negotiations move forward."
The Marine Conservation Society is lobbying for the draft to include regulation of discarded fishing gear, sometimes called "ghost fishing gear", which is made mostly of plastic and poses a threat to the health of Marine mammals.
The United Nations hinted at future standards and practices in a report released May 16. For example, the Extended Producer Responsibility Act would require manufacturers to take financial responsibility for the cost of end-of-life disposal of their plastic products and replace plastic with organic materials whenever possible, such as cardboard take-out containers. But it doesn't come cheap. The report estimates that it could cost $65 billion a year to reorient the economy away from plastic and then build the infrastructure to properly recycle the rest.
It may be harder to reach an agreement to ban the production of certain chemicals.
3. The second largest source of primary microplastics in the ocean
In 2017, an IUCN global model estimated tire wear to be the second largest source of primary microplastics in the ocean, at 28%, after synthetic textile fibers, at 35%. In 2019, a report by scientists across
A 2020 study showed that wind-borne microplastics are a bigger source of Marine pollution than those carried by rivers. While it's hard to pin down the exact composition of microplastics, there are plenty of studies that suggest tire dust makes up a significant portion.
Lau said he would like to see some polymers banned now and a mechanism set up to evaluate future chemicals. "This is going to be critical because our understanding of plastics and their impact on us and the environment is evolving," Lau said.