IPEN International Pollutants Elimination Network

The U.N. Is Running Out of Time to Draft This Plastics Treaty

New Republic logo with background of plastics dump

In March 2022, U.N. delegates met in Ottawa and struck a historic agreement to produce, by the end of 2024, a legally binding treaty to “end plastic pollution.” “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure,” Espen Barth Eide, then Norway’s minister for climate and the environment, said at the time. Now, more than two years later, the mission looks dangerously close to derailing.

Next week, when delegates reconvene in Ottawa, it will be their penultimate chance to achieve their stated goal (the final meeting is in November). “This meeting is, to a degree, make or break,” the International Pollutants Elimination Network’s Björn Beeler told Inside Climate News.

Given the proliferation of plastics alternatives these days, you might think this treaty would be in the shrimp shell–derived sustainable bag, so to speak. Nope. A meeting in Nairobi in November 2023 ended with very little progress. Perhaps relatedly, as this newsletter noted at the time, the Center for International and Environmental Law tallied 143 fossil fuel and petrochemical industry lobbyists registered to attend that meeting. It’s not known yet how many have registered to attend next week’s.

Since last November, several new reports have shed further light on the deception of the plastics industry. In February, the Center for Climate Integrity released a report on what it called a “decades-long campaign of fraud and deception about the recyclability of plastics,” as newly uncovered documents from trade group the Vinyl Institute explicitly acknowledged in the 1980s that “recycling cannot go on indefinitely, and does not solve the solid waste problem.”

Read the full story from The New Republic.