The IPEN team this week will participate in the UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, to highlight the threats to oceans from toxic chemicals, including chemicals in plastics that pose threats to human health and marine life.
Plastics, pesticides, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and heavy metals contaminate the oceans, and toxic chemicals spread via ocean currents to the most remote regions of the world. At the Oceans Conference, we will stress the need for global controls on toxic chemicals that are endangering human health and life under water.
Materials such as plastic and e-waste contain a cocktail of chemicals that studies show can disturb the body’s natural hormones. As ever-higher volumes of trash continue to end up in landfills, primarily waste exported from Western countries to low- and middle-income countries, waste pickers will be on the front lines of what scientists are calling an emerging health issue of global concern. And women are especially at risk.
In March 2022, 175 countries came together in an agreement to begin negotiations on a global treaty to address the plastic crisis. From May 30 to June 2, 2022, delegates from around the world met in Dakar, Senegal to set the terms for the next two years of work around a global Plastics Treaty.
IPEN members from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe attended the meetings in Dakar, and other IPEN groups from around the world continue to closely monitor the Plastics Treaty process. In Dakar, IPEN co-chair Dr. Tadesse Amera outlined our concerns about the health threats from chemicals in plastics and called for an open, participatory treaty process in his opening remarks to the plenary session.
In Dakar IPEN worked to educate delegates on the importance of developing within the INC an approach that understands plastics as carbon and chemicals, addresses the health and environmental threats from toxic chemicals in plastics, and promotes safer, non-toxic materials that are compatible with a circular economy.
This weekend, IPEN is hosting an event at the Plastics Treaty meetings in Dakar, Senegal on “Health, Chemicals, Plastics and a Non-Toxic Circular Economy.” The technical briefing is co-sponsored by the governments of Senegal, Switzerland and Uruguay with the support of the Geneva Environment Network and the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues.
Plastics are more than bottles, straws, and bags — more than individual products. The word “plastic” refers to many different materials with different properties that are given to them by their chemical ingredients.
A circular economy aims at changing the economic take-make-waste approach to one that minimizes extraction of natural resources and waste creation. It is seen as key to sustainability, including in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 12). The European Union Circular Economy Action Plan also aims to design for sustainability, encouraging products that last longer, are easier to use, recycle and repair, that incorporate more recycled materials, that limit single-use, and that maximize an item’s lifespan.