, ,

Disappointing UNEA resolution on plastic soup: Shell and Unilever get their own way

Amsterdam, 20th March 2019 – The world has chosen not to combat the plastic soup with a reduction in plastics production or the introduction of a ban on single use plastics.

This is basically the disappointing result of the fourth UNEA conference in Nairobi, where the member states of the UN agreed a resolution on combatting the plastic soup. Several countries, led by the USA, blocked suggestions to combat the plastic soup internationally.

 Multiple resolutions discussed.

During the UNEA-4 Conference, concluded last Friday, the resolution “Addressing single-use plastic products pollution” was ratified. Member states are called upon therein to take measures to curtail and limit the ecological consequences of plastic waste. However, there is absolutely nothing mentioned in there about coordinated international discussion, nor any mandated obligatory reduction of (packaging) plastics. Several resolutions were discussed at the conference with the aim of stopping plastics pollution but the more ambitious ones didn’t even make the grade. Norway, Japan and Sri Lanka together proposed working towards a new international agreement with binding objectives. India even introduced a resolution at the very last minute aimed at banning single-use plastic.

The rejected resolutions were all in line with the processes already proposed by more than 90 environmental organisations, including The Plastic Soup Foundation which expounds upon how a new international convention on combatting the plastic soup should be manifested.

Read about that proposal here.

Opposition from the United States of America

The environmental organisations, collectively in Nairobi, accused the USA of blocking any ambitious resolutions, delaying discussions and modifying texts. The USA chose to defend the interests of their petrochemical industries who have invested more that 200 billion dollars in new plastics production. Shell for instance, is one of these companies that has invested billions in new plastics and profits from cheap shale oil and gas.

The environmental organisations issued a joint declaration to the press.

The Guardian quotes David Azoulay of the Center for International Environmental Law as saying:

“The vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance. Seeing the US, guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening.” Even after the ratification of a greatly modified resolution, the American delegation announced that they did not feel bound to it at all.

Plastics manufacturers are happy

The World Plastics Council, the forum uniting plastics manufacturers, welcomed the resolution in a press release. They postulate that the first priority must lie in improved collection of plastic waste, especially in developing countries with large populations. The resolution however, imposes not one obligation on manufacturers to produce less (packaging) plastic. Unilever, one of the biggest polluters in South East Asia, also aims more towards recycling (mini) packaging instead of a reduction in production.

The Plastic Soup Foundation’s MD, Maria Westerbos:

“This successful lobby from the industry means that the plastic soup will only get worse over the upcoming years and that countries with the worst pollution will be landed with the worst problems. It is unbelievably disappointing that profits are once again seen to be more important than a habitable planet for future generations.”

Photo: Art installation made from plastic pegs by Angelika Heckhausen


Do also read – Protest Greenpeace bij Unilever tegen wegwerplastic.

Do also read – Nieuw industrieel offensief: Alliance to end plastic waste.

Do also read – Wil het Kabinet-Rutte wel echt minder plastic?