End Plastics

Key Takeaways from Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution: Mobilizing Around a Global Plastics Treaty

While there is an overwhelming consensus that plastic pollution is a global issue, there currently are no binding international agreements in effect in order to tackle the issue. Plastic pollution in our oceans is projected to triple by 2040, indicating that the issue of plastic pollution is largely a transboundary problem that will require legally-binding, international solutions. 

EARTHDAY.ORG recently hosted a discussion on the importance of accountable, international action to end plastic pollution.

The panel was moderated by EARTHDAY.ORG President, Kathleen Rogers, and included panelists Hugo-Maria (European Union); Monica Medina (U.S. Department of State); Ana Teresa Lecaros (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru); Juliet Kabera (Rwanda Environment Management Authority); and Gavin McIntyre (Ecovative). 

Ana Teresa Lecaros and Juliet Kabera are spearheading the movement to mobilize countries ahead of the 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) this February. Their draft resolution has rallied the support of 53 countries to date with the goal to develop a sound and ambitious resolution to fighting plastic pollution on a global scale. Kabera noted, “We need to be ambitious, we cannot continue to talk about this global issue as if it’s a story.” Lecaros agreed, stating “Plastic pollution is a huge risk factor to the sustainable development of all the planet, of all countries and communities.”

Hugo-Maria Shally emphasized the importance of tackling plastic pollution at all stages of the plastic life cycle, including production, product-manufacturing, use, and post-use. This includes addressing product design and use from a “bottom-up” approach, where innovative solutions are fostered. Circular economy action plans can be integrated into a global plastic treaty by looking at things from a systemic perspective. Schally emphasizes the importance of allowing the value of products and resources to stay in the economy longer, something that can be fostered early in the plastic life cycle. Schally states, “You need to address it from the very beginning if you want to address it well in the end.” It’s not that plastic is bad in itself, but rather that certain products, uses and designs do not translate well to a circular economy. 

Gavin McIntyre co-founded Ecovative in 2007, with the intent to grow, rather than manufacture, the next generation of materials that can return passively to Earth. As one of the earlier companies to innovate plastic and styrofoam alternatives, Gavin affirms the importance of investing in these technologies in order to promote the accessibility of plastic-alternatives. “This [Plastic pollution] is not a challenge that will be solved by only one technology, but really does require a family of technologies in order to truly resolve,” said Gavin. 

Monica Medina of the U.S. State Department echoed the United States’ support of the global treaty to end plastic pollution. Medina specifically notes the importance of viewing this issue through an environmental justice lens. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue, but rather a myriad of solutions and innovations needed to tackle the issue head on. When speaking on the issue, Medina stated, “It is a major global challenge that will only get worse unless we take action now.” She said, “It really is time to turn the tide on plastic pollution and waste. Plastic pollution is a global problem that affects our environment, it affects our food security, maritime transportation, tourism, economic stability, resource management, and potentially human health.”

Through EARTHDAY.ORG’s End Plastic Pollution Campaign, we encourage and empower people to act on plastic pollution through participating in local cleanups, contacting policymakers, and reflecting on our own personal habits. Join us by registering for a cleanup near you, supporting the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, and making simple changes in your everyday life to combat plastic pollution.