IPEN International Pollutants Elimination Network

Why science should be at centre of plastic treaty talks

by Patricia Kombo, Center For Environmental Justice and Development 

In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution 5/14 towards addressing plastic pollution. The adoption illustrates how plastic pollution is a serious environmental problem at a global scale. It affirms the urgent need to strengthen global coordination, cooperation, governance and immediate action toward its long-term elimination.

The third session of the Plastics Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee in Nairobi, aims to establish a global commitment, promote sustainable practices, and eliminate plastic pollution with the involvement of stakeholders; scientists, lobby groups academia, and communities. Initially, the treaty centered on the visible and physical waste management crisis of plastics. However, lobby groups have been calling for a plastic treaty that goes beyond the visible impacts to address threats brought by chemicals in plastics that continue to pose a threat to health and the environment.

For the treaty to be meaningful, policymakers and government officials need up-to-date science to understand the plastics problem and create effective regulations built on scientific and policy expertise. According to research, toxic chemicals are used in plastics, and due to a lack of labelling and traceability, it becomes impossible to track them.

A recent study by the International Pollutants Elimination Network shows that toxic chemicals are present in toys, kitchen utensils, and other consumer products purchased from markets in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Syria, Tanzania, and Tunisia. Brominated flame retardants regulated under the Stockholm Convention were found in consumer products from these countries at high concentrations, suggesting that the products were made of recycled plastic from plastic e-waste and end-of-life vehicles where BFRs are commonly used.

Read the full story in The Standard.