UN Releases First Draft for Ending Plastic Pollution: A Deep Dive 

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. A chance to see the first draft of the global plastics treaty. There is still a long way to go but everyone here at City to Sea HQ is pretty pleased that the potential for reducing plastic production and reuse targets have made it in as options to this first draft.  

What’s Happened?

When countries agreed to put together a global plastics treaty, they set out a timeline to negotiate what would be included. At the second round of negotiations (INC-2) held in Paris, there was an agreement that a “zero draft” of the treaty should be drawn up. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in conjunction with the Committee Chair, H.E. Mr. Gustavo Adolfo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez of Peru, has now introduced a preliminary draft of a treaty. This draft will be a central focus at the forthcoming INC-3 discussions set for this November in Nairobi, Kenya.  

This is when countries, including the UK, will discuss all the options laid out in the draft and hopefully add in details such as specific targets that are currently missing.

Our Policy Manager, Steve Hynd, shared his thoughts, saying: “Today marks a monumental step in our shared battle against plastic pollution. At City to Sea, we’ve always believed that setting reuse benchmarks is a crucial strategy to combat plastic waste. Such targets can inspire the private sector to not only adopt current refill and reuse methodologies but also to fund essential research to make reuse the new norm in packaging.” 

He further emphasised the UK’s potential role: “If the UK aims to be at the forefront of this movement, it’s imperative they set a robust, legally binding reuse goal in collaboration with regional administrations. Countries like France are already paving the way. The UK should refrain from mere lip service and actively demonstrate their commitment to moving beyond single-use plastics.” 

The Good

We’re feeling optimistic about this treaty draft because it includes:  

  • A possible phased approach to minimise plastic production. 
  • A possible removal of certain polymers and concerning chemicals. 
  • A possible addressing short-lived and easily avoidable plastics. 
  • The necessity for transparency and a fair transition. 
  • Proposing systems and benchmarks for minimising waste and embedding reuse targets. 

The less good

There are, however, certain segments of the draft that we’re feeling less confident about.  Aspects like recycled plastic content, waste management, and the Extended Producer Responsibility are potentially vague when they all MUST play a central role in tackling the plastic crisis. Without a rigorous framework mandating reduction first and reuse second, the focus might undesirably shift more towards recycling and waste management, thus potentially compromising the treaty’s primary objective.  

Lastly, we will be keeping a close on eye on the role given to those on the front lines of the plastic crisis, often from the global south, who have traditionally not had their voices heard in big international negotiations. It is not acceptable to limit their role to knowledge exchange and skill enhancement as it currently is. Future systems need to be designed with their needs in mind and their voices are given equal weight around the negotiating table. 

What We’re Calling for

City to Sea is calling on the UK government to introduce an accessible short-term reuse target of 5% by 2026 and a medium-term target of 30% by 2030. Stay up-to-date with all the developments by signing up to our monthly Plastic-Free Journal mailing list by completing the form below.


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