On Friday afternoon more than 2,000 experts will wrap up a week of negotiations on plastic pollution at one of the largest global gatherings ever to address what even industry leaders in plastics say is a crisis.
It was the first meeting of a United Nations committee set up to draft what is intended to be a landmark treaty to bring an end to plastic pollution globally.
“If we look 30 years from now, we’re set to have four times more plastic. We’re in an extremely unfortunate situation. So you must have a global approach to this,” said Björn Beeler, who was at the meeting as the international coordinator for the International Pollutants Elimination Network, or IPEN.
Entire beaches on what used to be pristine islands are now mounded with trash. Examination of a random handful of sand in many places reveals pieces of plastic.
Tadesse Amera, an environmental scientist, said the treaty should address not only waste but the environmental health issues posed by chemicals in plastics as the products are used, recycled, discarded or burned as waste. Amera is the director of Pesticide Action Nexus Association Ethiopia and IPEN co-chair.
“It’s not a waste management issue,” he said. “It’s a chemical issue and a health issue, human health and also biodiversity.”
The first round of negotiations on a global plastics treaty ended on Friday with agreement to end plastic pollution but a split on whether goals and efforts should be global and mandatory, or voluntary and country-led.
Even as some countries are split on the approach the treaty should take, some observers said there seems to be growing agreement that plastic pollution is not just about waste ending up in the ocean.
"Plastics are not anymore being seen as just a marine litter issue. People are discussing plastic as a material made of chemicals," said Vito Buonsante, policy adviser for the International Pollutants Elimination Network. "There has been a narrative shift."
This week in Uruguay, scientists, environmentalists, and government representatives—and, of course, lobbyists—are gathering to begin negotiations on a United Nations treaty on plastics. It’s only the start of talks, so we don’t know how they will shape up, but some of the bargaining chips on the table include production limits and phasing out particularly troublesome chemical components. A draft resolution released in March set the tone, acknowledging that “high and rapidly increasing levels of plastic pollution represent a serious environmental problem at a global scale, negatively impacting the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development.”
…Plastic pollution is no longer this thing that happens to beaches, or to sea turtles, but something that has tainted our own bodies. “Going beyond the understanding of plastic waste as merely a problem of litter, we are starting to see the importance of understanding plastics as materials made of hundreds of harmful chemicals,” says Vito Buonsante, technical and policy adviser at the International Pollutants Elimination Network, who’s attending the talks.
On Wednesday, November 30, at the Plastics Treaty INC-1 negotiations in Punta del Este, Uruguay, IPEN co-hosted a science and health information briefing on "Health, Chemicals, Plastics and a Non-Toxic Circular Economy." The briefing was co-hosted by the governments of Uruguay and Switzerland, and with the Endocrine Society, and included speakers on the science and health risks from chemicals in plastics followed by a panel discussion.
In May 2022, the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers recognized lead pollution as a burden on human health and the environment globally and expressed their strong commitment to reduce lead in the environment and to reduce the disproportionate lead exposure in vulnerable communities.
Now IPEN experts will present our work to document and eliminate lead threats and vision for solutions to lead poisoning at a G7 workshop in Berlin from 9-10 November 2022. IPEN Science Advisor Dr. Sara Brosché will speak on a plenary session on “Approaches to Address Lead,” and IPEN’s Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner from the Philippines Jeiel Guarino will speak on a breakout panel on lead in paint, to examine the existing challenge of lead paint around the world and discuss how G7 (and G20) can contribute to addressing this situation.
50 IPEN Member Groups from 40 Countries Join International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week’s Call to “Say No to Lead Poisoning”
Thursday, 20 October 2022
IPEN and 50 of its member groups from 40 countries will join the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint program of WHO and UNEP, for International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) this October 23-29, emphasizing the urgent need to protect children’s health through global action to eliminate the use of lead paint. IPEN is a founding member of the Alliance and a member of its Advisory Board.
More than 50 participating organizations of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) from over 40 countries are taking part in the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) on October 23-29, 2022.
(Rome, Italy) A U.N. expert scientific review committee has evaluated two toxic, chemical additives found in many common plastics and has concluded the evidence of the substances harm to health and the environment qualify them for global elimination, recommending that the chemicals be listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).