IPEN International Pollutants Elimination Network

A robust Plastics Treaty is needed to protect global health

by Dr. Tadesse Amara, IPEN

Last year, 175 nations agreed to develop a legally binding agreement to tackle plastic pollution. One year from now, these countries will conclude negotiations for the world’s first international Plastics Treaty, which aims to stem the health and environmental threats we face from toxic plastics.

Recent negotiations however indicate the need to avoid false solutions and focus on the root causes of the plastics problem.

Scientific studies have found that plastics and chemical pollution have already outpaced the planet’s ability to tolerate these threats. Even more disturbing, projections suggest that plastic production could triple in the coming decades, meaning this breach of the planetary boundaries for sustainable living could become disastrous for life on Earth.

While chemicals and plastics production are increasing in many regions, vulnerable communities, including Indigenous communities, aredisproportionately impacted by plastic pollution, though they do not benefit from the profits of the plastics industry.

Wealthy countries also export their plastic trash to low- and middle-income countries, so communities in these countries also face unequal health and environmental costs from plastic pollution.

For example, the African continent is not a major producer of plastics, but wealthy countries export their plastics and plastic waste to Africa, often under the guise of recycling, bringing along harmful chemicals that pose health risks to children and families.

To solve the plastics problem, we must first adequately frame the problem. Plastic pollution has been viewed as a problem of visible plastic waste, but there is now widespread agreement that a Plastics Treaty must address the invisible threats from chemicals prevalent throughout the plastics life cycle.

Read the full opinion piece in TRT World.