IPEN International Pollutants Elimination Network

Time is Running Out to Avert Plastics Catastrophe as Global Treaty Negotiations Reach Stalemate

The third round of international negotiations over a global plastics treaty has ended in a stalemate, leaving nations no closer to an agreement to stem the tide of plastic pollution that is choking the planet and endangering human health.

The week-long talks at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi marked the halfway point towards the 2024 deadline set for nations to hammer out a binding international treaty addressing the “full life cycle” of plastics, as set out in a UN resolution adopted by 175 countries in 2022.

“The petrochemical industry needs plastic as a safe haven from carbon liabilities,” a 2021 study by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) found. “Increasing plastic production offsets falling demand for its fossil fuels.”

“With petrochemical companies avoiding fossil fuel carbon liabilities by massively increasing plastic production, the amount of plastic waste generated is set to climb dramatically,” the study added.

The Endocrine Society estimated in a 2020 study that just four chemical families used in plastics cause over $400 billion in human health costs every year in the United States alone – a figure its authors called “a conservative estimate” due to the low number of chemicals studied.

“Just for those few chemicals, the costs are tremendous,” Martin Wagner, an environmental toxicologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and member of the Endocrine Society explained in an interview.

“If you extrapolate that to a global scale, just based on what we know about a few endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics, it makes total economic sense to do something about it.”

Read the full story from Health Policy Watch.