Plastics treaty could be ‘game-changer’ for reuse

Campaigners have welcomed proposals for reuse targets to be included in a global treaty on plastics.

The United Nations Environment Agency (UNEP) this week published the first draft text of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

Among the options set out in the text (technically referred to as a “zero draft”) is for signatories to “take effective measures to promote the reduction, reuse, refill, repair, repurposing and refurbishment of plastics and plastic products […..] in particular through the implementation of reuse, refill and repair systems”.

The text also proposes setting as yet-unspecified minimum targets for reuse to be achieved within a given timeframe.

“This is a potential game-changer and a historic day in our global campaign against plastic pollution,” said Steve Hynd, policy manager at campaign group City to Sea. “City to Sea have long maintained that reuse targets are one of the most important policy instruments we have to tackle plastic pollution. By embedding reuse targets governments can give the private sector the confidence it needs to both move to existing refill and reuse systems but to also invest in the research that’s needed to mainstream reuse in packaging.”

Among other proposals put forward in the draft is to ban or regulate the presence and use in plastics and plastic products of chemicals, groups of chemicals and polymers with the potential for adverse impacts on human health or the environment.

Also proposed is the phasing out of “problematic and avoidable plastic products” including certain single-use or short-lived plastics.

Meanwhile the design of plastic products should be enhanced to improve durability, reusability and recyclability, while “parties shall ensure that alternative plastics and plastic products are safe, environmentally sound and sustainable, taking into account their potential for environmental, economic, social and human health impacts, including food security”.

The draft text provides a basis for further discussion by the intergovernmental negotiating committee but it “does not prejudge the committee’s decisions on the content of the future instrument”, meaning that some proposals risk being watered down in future drafts.

Graham Forbes, Greenpeace USA global plastics campaign lead, said the draft treaty included necessary provisions to reduce plastic production and use but urged governments to “go much further and negotiate an ambitious treaty that turns off the toxic plastics tap”.

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