Verenigde Naties United Nations

United Nations must vote for international legally binding treaty on plastic pollution

Amsterdam, 23 October 2017 – The United Nations considers plastic soup to be one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world today. The damage to marine life, as well as society and the economy, increasingly caused by plastic waste is unacceptably high.

It is clear that so far the world has been incapable of reining in plastic pollution. The reason behind this partly lies in the treaties between countries, both those that are agreed under the auspices of the United Nations and those that are not. For this reason, at its last meeting the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), attended by all of the world’s environment ministers, requested an overview of international legislation. How effective are the existing treaties? What are their shortcomings? And what possible solutions are there? The report which answers these questions will play a key role at the upcoming UNEA meeting to take place in Nairobi, Kenya at the beginning of December.

This report, entitled “Combating marine plastic waste and microplastics: An assessment of the effectiveness of relevant international, regional and subregional governance strategies and approaches”, compiles the plethora of existing treaties  ̶  each with its own points for attention and objectives. However, as yet there are no international agreements with binding obligations specifically aimed at reducing plastic waste in the oceans, let alone to reduce plastic production in the first place.

The report will put two options to the assembly to rectify this legislative hiatus: either by adapting existing treaties or by introducing a new international treaty specifically to combat plastic pollution, which could be implemented within three or four years. In December, this choice will present the international community with an opportunity to address the problem.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Plastic soup can only be tackled when every country fully cooperates and signs up to internationally binding agreements, both between countries and with industry. The international community now has the opportunity to take action. There is no time to lose. I am proud that the Plastic Soup Foundation has paved the way for this to happen by participating in the international advice group.”