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Highlights Front Roll

New Video: Plastics Poisoning Our Health
Promoting Stronger Protections on Chemicals at BRS COP
How the UNEA Plastics Resolutions Relates to Chemicals and Health
Plastic Poisons the Circular Economy
Plastic Waste Fuels: policy spreads toxic trade across Asia
Shipping Disaster Study Shows Need for Stricter Controls
Plastics, EDCs & Health Report Links Chemical Additives and Health Effects

Toward a Plastics Treaty

Read IPEN's Analysis of the
Plastic Pollution Resolution

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) has called for this meeting of an ad hoc open-ended working group to prepare for the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) on a Plastics Treaty. UNEA resolution 5/14 specifies that the INC is to develop an international legally binding agreement based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, and, among other provisions, calls for an agreement

“To promote sustainable production and consumption of plastics, including, among others, product design, and environmentally sound waste management, including through resource efficiency and circular economy approaches.”

IPEN believes that an understanding of the following three principles will be foundational for a Plastics Treaty that addresses the human health and climate threats from plastics throughout their lifecycle, and for promoting alternatives that truly meet the needs of a circular economy.

Watch Plastics Video

In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) approved a broad mandate to start talks on an international treaty to address the growing threats from plastic pollution. The scope of the Plastics Treaty is intended to include all impacts from plastics throughout their lifecycle, including effects from the toxic chemicals in plastics on human health and the environment. The future treaty will be a key legally binding agreement moving the world towards a toxic free future.

In IPEN’s analysis, based on the mandate, the final agreement must address the health impacts of plastics and their chemicals in four ways:

More funding is needed for contaminated sites from gold mining

Nusa Dua, Indonesia After difficult and tense negotiations, the Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury agreed that parties shall not allow or shall recommend against the use of mercury based dental amalgam in deciduous teeth, children under 15 and pregnant and breast-feeding women.

This ground-breaking decision, proposed by the African region, is an acknowledgement by global governments that mercury based dental amalgam can impact human health despite decades of industry claims that it is safe.

IPEN representative Gilbert Kuepouo said, “This breakthrough decision, is the beginning of the end of dental amalgam use around the world. There is finally official acknowledgement that mercury fillings can have adverse health effects on women and children. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, and it cannot be justified any longer to place it in the mouth of women and children. While we don’t have a global phase out date yet, this decision means that a full phase out is just a matter of time.”

In other decisions there was agreement that the last category of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) would be phased out by 2025 as LED alternatives are now widely available.

Nairobi, Kenya While some attempt to cast the global plastics crisis as a problem with disposal and litter, a distinguished panel at UNEA 5.2 confirmed that the future plastics treaty must address the problem of toxic chemical additives in plastics. The resolution to initiate the international process for a global, binding plastic treaty does not itself contain specific language about chemicals. However, two speakers underscored that the resolution's scope is broad enough to allow chemicals to be negotiated in the final treaty text. IPEN was lauded for its work to reveal the presence of such chemicals — recognized toxics such as BPA, PFAS, brominated flame retardants, dioxins, and other chemicals — in recycled pellets and products, as well its work to expose problems with bans on the export of plastic waste as fuel.

Watch the panel

Approves New International Scientific Panel on Chemicals

For Immediate Release
2 March 2022
Attn: Environment and Global Health News
Contacts: Björn Beeler, bjornbeeler@ipen.org

United Nations Environment Assembly Enters new Era to End Plastic Pollution, and approves a new international scientific panel on chemicals

Nairobi, Kenya After 10 days of intense negotiations, governments adopted three resolutions relevant to chemicals and plastics under the resumed fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2). These decisions include:

  • A resolution to start talks later this year to agree on a legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution focusing on prevention and promoting sustainable production and consumption of plastics. The resolution covers all types of potential pollution and the whole lifecycle of plastics;
  • A resolution agreeing to start discussions to create a scientific panel on chemicals, waste, and pollution prevention;
  • A resolution that renews the Special Program that provides financial support to developing countries to develop programs contributing to the sound management of chemicals and waste. Additionally, the resolution calls for a new report on the state of the science on endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Plastics: Governments approved a broad mandate to start talks on a plastics treaty. IPEN believes that the treaty should help prevent health threats from the widely used hazardous chemicals embedded in plastics, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals include phthalates, bisphenols, brominated flame retardants, and PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals”. All of these are chemicals known to cause severe harm to health. When recycled, these chemicals can potentially expose vulnerable populations to health threats.

IPEN says the treaty needs to have legally binding provisions to help reduce the use of plastics products. Based on current forecasts of huge growth in plastic and chemical production and use, slowing down this growth is crucial to defend the health of the planet and of people.

Press Release
Embargoed Release Embargo Lifts: 2022 Mar 1 at 0900 Manila (PST) (1AM UTC)
Attn: Environment and Global Health News
Contacts:
Björn Beeler, IPEN: bjornbeeler@ipen.org
Jane Bremmer, National Toxics Network/Zero Waste Australia: acejane@bigpond.com

Australia’s ‘trojan horse’ plastics waste policy fuels toxic trade across Asia

(Reports and Press Release)

Cover

Gothenburg, Sweden The International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) has published a series of studies that reveal how Australia’s new waste policies are driving massive investment in plastic waste-to-fuel processing, and that the country’s exports are threatening waste management in ASEAN countries. This is despite the country announcing it would stop exporting unprocessed wastes in 2020, after China and other Southeast Asian countries banned plastic waste imports, starting in 2018.

Jane Bremmer, campaign coordinator for Zero Waste Australia, says: “Australia has effectively rebranded plastic waste as refuse-derived fuel (RDF), so it can continue to trade waste exports.”

The NGO adds that Australia’s stance is undermining the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, as well as global climate change commitments.

Ms. Bremmer continues: “We are concerned about Australia's ‘trojan horse’ plastic waste policy and the ability of Southeast Asian countries to safely handle refuse-derived fuel wastes. We also want to be clear that burning RDF cannot be considered green, or a low carbon source of electricity or energy. RDF will compete with and displace clean, renewable energy in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and the lack of any international standards or regulatory framework for its production, trade and use, is a threat to health, environment and human rights, especially in developing countries.”

The hybrid meeting of the fifth United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-5), entitled “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, and its preparatory (the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives – OECPR), will focus on five thematic areas: plastics, nature-based solutions and biodiversity, chemicals, green recovery and circular economy, and organizational and administrative matters. IPEN has sent an international delegation to contribute to the in-person negotiations.

UPDATE: UNEA Outcomes

Under the plastic pollution thematic area, the main focus will be on discussing a mandate to start negotiation of a treaty on plastic. If agreed, the mandate would convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to negotiate a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Under consideration are three draft resolutions: one proposed by Rwanda and Peru and supported by over 50 countries; another by Japan; and the last one proposed by India. Details about these proposals and IPEN’s positions can be found in IPEN’s Quick Views on UNEA 5.2.

Under the chemicals thematic area there are 3 resolutions that will be discussed. In our quick views we focus on two resolutions: one on the Science-Policy Panel on chemicals, waste, and pollution and the resolution on Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste. In our quick views and global science policy documents, we outline many specific issues and recommendations, highlighting the need for precautionary action and as well as adequate funding for the sound management of chemicals and waste.

Undoubtedly there is a lot of energy behind a new, ambitious instrument. However, there is still much work to be done on other issues, and increased efforts must be made to urgently address the Emerging Policy Issues and Issues of Concern such as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, Highly Hazardous Pesticides and Chemicals in Products. A coordinated international response to prevent all sources of lead, cadmium, and arsenic exposure before they are allowed to impact human health and pollute the environment would be welcome. A special effort should be on accelerating actions to eliminate lead paint, noting that this goal for 2020 has not yet been met.

Information about UNEA 5.2

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