The Potential Impact of a Global Plastic Pollution Treaty

The Potential Impact of a Global Plastic Pollution Treaty
The Potential Impact of a Global Plastic Pollution Treaty

The world has long been grappling with the crisis of plastic pollution. While other disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and climate change often take center stage, plastic pollution's insidious and mounting problem continues to grow. The United Nations (UN) recently released a preliminary draft of a treaty that could alter the course of this crisis. This draft, which outlines the principles under consideration for the "international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment," could become one of the most significant treaties of our time.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to right the ship and chart a course toward a future where we're not drowning in plastics." - Nick Mallos, Ocean Conservancy.

A Crisis Overshadowed

Despite being overshadowed by climate change, plastic pollution has emerged as a full-blown emergency closely linked to global warming. The production of plastic, which currently stands at a staggering trillion pounds per year, is a carbon-intensive process as it is derived from fossil fuels. Plastic production is projected to triple by 2060, contributing significantly to the global climate crisis.

The Current State of Recycling

The United States, for instance, has a dismal recycling rate of just 5 percent. Most plastic ends up in landfills, incinerated, or in the environment. Microplastics, tiny particles shed from everyday objects like clothing and broken-down bottles and bags, have now infiltrated every corner of the planet. They have even made their way into our bodies, posing a significant threat to human health.

The Draft Treaty: A Ray of Hope?

The draft treaty under consideration by the UN presents a range of potential interventions to address plastic pollution. The objectives listed in the treaty are protecting human health and the environment from plastic pollution and the more ambitious goal of ending plastic pollution altogether. However, this document is still being determined, and the negotiations are expected to extend through 2024.

Challenges and Concerns

There are concerns that this treaty could follow the path of the Paris Agreement, where countries were allowed to set their targets for reducing emissions. This could lead to a watered-down, voluntary agreement where countries set their own goals for reducing plastic production. On the other hand, environmental conservationists advocate for the treaty to establish specific targets for reducing plastic production.

Facing the Toxicity of Plastics

Another critical aspect that needs attention is the toxicity of plastic. Plastics are made of chemicals that need stringent regulation. Over 13,000 chemicals are associated with plastics, and a quarter of these have been categorized as hazardous. The treaty should ideally address these component chemicals, for instance, by phasing out particularly toxic ones.

The Microplastics Dilemma

Microplastics have also been featured prominently in the draft. These tiny particles, smaller than 5 millimeters, pose a significant challenge. While the document outlines options for eliminating intentionally added microplastics, secondary microplastics that break down from larger bottles and bags remain a complicated problem.

Final Thoughts

Although there may be obstacles, the draft treaty is a positive step towards tackling the worldwide plastic pollution crisis. The agreement presents an opportunity to implement robust measures to decrease plastic production and eliminate hazardous chemicals. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the final treaty hinges on the global community's recognition of the problem and their willingness to take action.

Share the Article by the Short Url:

Arya Chandran

Arya Chandran

Greetings! My name is Arya, and science is my passion. Ever since my school days, I have been captivated by the world of exact sciences, and my interest in the subject has only grown stronger with time. I find great joy in exploring the intricacies of physics, mathematics, biology, and other fascinating fields of study. It would be my pleasure to embark on a scientific journey with you, where we can delve deeper into the wonders of the natural world together.