UN treaty

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Upcoming negotiations mark a major stepping stone for a UN treaty to end plastic pollution

Cowes, United Kingdom

A UN treaty based on legally-binding global rules and comprehensive circular economy measures presents a unique opportunity to accelerate systems change and end plastic pollution.

To maintain momentum and ensure the foundation achieves an ambitious treaty within the next two years, the upcoming negotiating session at the end of May should result in the creation of a zero-draft text.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is calling for a treaty that is based on:

  • Legally binding global rules. These are crucial to stimulate the investment and innovation essential to driving global change. 

  • Comprehensive circular economy measures, with a focus on upstream action. To achieve meaningful progress, everybody must reduce the use of plastics, increase reuse models and fundamentally redesign the approach to plastic packaging across its whole lifecycle.

What can be expected from the INC-2 negotiations?

The second round of negotiations will begin in Paris, France on the 29th of May and last until the 2nd of June. 

Also known as INC-2 (or International Negotiation Committee), this session marks a crucial stage in the negotiations as it will set the agenda for what will likely be included in the draft of the treaty. 

With only two years left to make the treaty a reality, the foundation cannot afford to delay the creation of this zero-draft text.

What should a treaty focus on?

Ahead of the upcoming negotiations, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has contributed two submissions to the INC Secretariat as well as a paper on reuse, all of which you can find on the foundation's website.

The foundation is calling for these elements to be included in the treaty: 

  • A substantial reduction in plastic production and use, through a circular economy approach. 

  • To reduce leakage into the environment, plastic items that cannot be eliminated should have clear requirements on their design and the systems for keeping them in circulation in practice and at scale.

  • Mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility policies to ensure all industry players fund the collection and treatment of plastic packaging.

  • A focus on upstream action. Everybody needs reuse to reduce plastic pollution - it offers one of the biggest opportunities to cut plastic leakage, as well as lower emissions and pressure on natural resources.

  • To lead to swift and meaningful action, a treaty should initially focus on the types of plastic most likely to end up in the environment - including packaging, which creates around 40% of total plastic waste.

Why the foundation is focusing on reuse

The treaty has a vital role to play in scaling reuse by including measures which will enable harmonised product design and infrastructure. 

  • Reuse offers one of the biggest opportunities to cut plastic leakage, as well as lower emissions and pressure on natural resources.

  • It is estimated that scaling reuse models can cut annual plastic leakage into the ocean by 20% by 2040. 

  • Reuse schemes can cut life cycle emissions of a product by up to 80% compared to single-use products and reduce pressure on natural resources such as water. 

  • The reuse market is a multi-billion-dollar economic opportunity providing jobs across the entire value chain. 

Individual countries and businesses alone cannot realise the shift to reuse at a global scale without uniform legislation applied consistently across global markets. Read the reuse paper to find out more.

To find out more about how the foundation is engaging with the upcoming negotiations for a UN treaty to end plastic pollution, visit the dedicated page here

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