Global levels of plastic pollution are showing no signs of slowing down. Recent UNCTAD figures show plastics trade reaching USD 1.2 trillion in 2022. Despite a surge in public awareness and environmental campaigning, a recent report shows that the world is producing a record amount of single-use plastic waste, generating 139 million metric tons of single-use plastic waste in 2021, 6 million metric tons more than in 2019.
International discourse about plastics has reached a pivotal point. In a historic milestone at UNEA-5 in 2022, UN Member States endorsed a resolution to end plastic pollution by forging an international legally binding agreement by 2024. As of 2023, 175 countries had adopted the resolution End Plastic Pollution: towards an international legally binding instrument which addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal.
But to gain international consensus on the terms and conditions of this historic global plastic treaty, member states have had to negotiate at 3 INC sessions – 2 of which have passed and were fraught with difficulties amid highly variable opinions. The third and final INC session that will determine the future of this treaty is being held on 13 November in Nairobi.
Within the UN member states, several camps advocating for different approaches have emerged: An informal group called the “High Ambition Coalition,” which includes EU countries as well as Peru, Rwanda, Chile and island nations, wants global targets to reduce plastic production and pollution as well as restrictions on certain hazardous chemicals. On the other hand, countries like the United States and Saudi Arabia have favoured only national plans rather than global targets to tackle the problem, in which voluntary “national action plans” will let individual countries decide how to reduce the amount of plastic they are producing and using. While better waste management is one part of the global solution, it falls far short of being able to resolve the trillions of tonnes of plastic entering our environment every year.
Our systems simply cannot cope with the sheer volume being produced, especially in parts of the world without the existing waste management infrastructures available.
Together with our partners The FlipFlopi Project, UNCTAD and UK International Development, have added our voices to the draft treaty, and call for the member states to take the bold approach to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics once and for all.
In light of this, we joined hands with our partners at the East Africa Regional workshop on Single Use Plastics (SUP) which was held in early 2023 and convened environmental experts, legislators, and representatives from the private and civil society sectors to deliberate on the impact of SUPs on the environment and discuss current legislation in the region.
Together we prepared a status report discussing current legislation on SUPs in the region. Read the full report here.