Plastic is undoubtedly the (sad) star of November.
While the European Week for Waste Reduction is taking place, two crucial events for global plastic management have taken place in the last few days: the end of the third phase of negotiations on the international treaty to end plastic pollution and the vote, in the European Parliament, on the PPWR (Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation).
A busy schedule in the midst of an already complex agenda!
So what can we learn from the last few days of European and international “progress” on plastic?
INTERNATIONAL TREATY ON PLASTIC POLLUTION: ROADBLOCKS PERSIST
The third round of negotiations on the plastic treaty, which took place in Kenya from November 13 to 19, exposed persistent tensions between states in favor of an ambitious treaty to reduce plastic production and consumption, and those defending their economic interests in plastic production (namely Russia, Iran, China and Saudi Arabia).
The latter, refusing to recognize plastic as a pollution factor, have formed a coalition (Coalition for Plastic Sustainability). Opposed to binding measures, this pro-plastic coalition considerably slowed progress in discussions and debates around the first draft of the treaty proposed last September (“draft zero”), failing to reach a mandate for the intersessional working group although a mandate for a first draft has been issued.
It was therefore a missed opportunity for all member states to lay the foundations for ambitious intersessional work on various priorities, including the development of targets and timetables for a global reduction in plastic production, as well as strict mechanisms for monitoring compliance with a global reduction target.
If there is any hope for member states to conclude one of the most important environmental agreements in history by the end of 2024, it will be imperative, after the conclusion of this third round, to establish a robust conflict of interest policy and reassess how to deal with countries that deliberately block negotiation progress.
Diane Beaumenay-Joannet, aquatic waste advocacy officer for Surfrider Foundation Europe
of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 were the
result of plastics
of plastics produced
worldwide are dedicated
tons of plastic will be
produced every year
by 2050 if nothing is done, according to OECD forecasts.
PPWR (PACKAGING AND PACKAGING WASTE REGULATION): DISAPPOINTING COMPROMISES
After many months of discussion obstructed by pressure from cardboard, industrial packaging and fast-food lobbyists, the European Parliament finally voted last Wednesday (22/11) on a version of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) stripped of all bold measures.
At a time when it is crucial to reduce both pollution and the use of resources, this regulation initially represented a major opportunity to transition from current wasteful packaging systems to reusable options. Unfortunately, the relentless intervention from various lobbies with clearly identifiable economic interests led the European Parliament’s Environment Committee to adopt, and to propose a vote in plenary, a version of the PPWR regulation sorely lacking in ambition and firmness.
Parliament then voted to remove almost all provisions aimed at combating unnecessary packaging, as well as most reuse targets for 2040. While some reuse targets (notably for beverage containers) were retained, they have been revised with far less impact and with broad exemptions, rendering them virtually ineffective and in turn, crippling the emerging reuse movement and the beginnings of a circular economy.
Another missed opportunity to move away from single-use packaging and reduce waste and pollution.
In a small glimmer of hope, the overall waste prevention targets set for member states (to reduce total levels of packaging waste by 5% by 2030 and 15% by 2040) established a direction for the packaging industry to follow. In addition, the Parliament added a long-awaited ban on the use of PFAS and BPA – highly toxic and durable substances – in food packaging.
Lucie Padovani, aquatic waste advocacy officer for Surfrider Foundation Europe
tons of packaging
waste produced in France
is the percentage
of all packaging
materials recycled in France
+ over 50°c
is the temperature required
plastics to become fully biodegradable
To find out more: Download the press kit from our partner Zero Waste France’s website to find out more about the November events