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Published: 13:33, November 20, 2023
UN plastic treaty talks grapple with re-use, recycle, reduce debate
By Reuters
Published:13:33, November 20, 2023 By Reuters

This illustration picture shows a plastic bag drifting in the botnia Gulf on May 3, 2023 near Pietarsaari, during the late spring as the sea-ice is slowly melting. (PHOTO / AFP)

NAIROBI — A third round of United Nations negotiations to try to deliver the world's first treaty to control plastic pollution has drawn more than 500 proposals from governments, participants said on Sunday.

Negotiators, who spent a week meeting in the Kenyan capital at talks known as INC3, have until the end of next year to strike a deal for the control of plastics, which produce an estimated 400 million tonnes of waste every year.

A proposal to hold an extra session before the next round in Canada, known as intersessional talks, failed to advance in the final plenary meeting, participants said

Environmental group Greenpeace said a successful deal would require the United States and the European Union to show greater leadership than they have so far.

READ MORE: WWF: China’s plastic measures will contribute to global treaty

"The hard truth is that INC3 has failed to deliver on its core objective: delivering a mandate to prepare a first draft of a treaty text," Graham Forbes, head of delegation for Greenpeace, said.

"This is not progress. This is chaos," he said referring to the number of submissions.

Two more rounds of talks will take place next year to try to finalize the deal. A proposal to hold an extra session before the next round in Canada, known as intersessional talks, failed to advance in the final plenary meeting, participants said.

Bethanie Carney Almroth, an eco-toxicologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who was involved in the talks, said the world was confronting a huge challenge.

"Plastics are connected to climate change, to biodiversity loss and other major threats and crises that we as the human population are facing on the planet," she said.

There was no immediate comment from the United Nations.

Less than 10 percent of plastic waste recycled

Stewart Harris, a spokesman for the International Council of Chemicals Association, an industry body that favours measures like re-using plastic containers as opposed to production curbs, said the Nairobi talks had delivered good ideas.

A proposal by Switzerland and Uruguay to hold more discussions on curbing harmful polymers and chemicals of concern garnered support from more than 100 members states.

READ MORE: Clash expected over production limits at UN plastic treaty talks

But some participants were disappointed by what they called the lack of a clear path towards an effective deal.

"Major fossil fuel producers and exporters stalled efforts to move forward in an efficient manner," said Tadesse Amera, co-chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a global network of non-governmental organisations.

Less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled, the UN Environment Programme says, while at least 14 million tonnes end up in oceans every year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature says.

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