What is it?
The historic resolution, called “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument” was adopted following a 3 day meeting attended by more than 3400 people in person in Kenya, Nairobi and 1500 people online.
The UN Environment program Executive Director Inger Andersen described the agreement as an insurance policy for future generations: “Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.”
Why does it matter?
The treaty will cover plastic from its production to its disposal. This is important because plastic has environmental impacts right through its life cycle.
- Most plastics are made from fossil fuels like natural gas and petroleum. These are rapidly decreasing natural resources.
- Every piece of plastic ever made still exists on Earth today because plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose. To put that in perspective, if Ngāti Tumatakōkiri had been enjoying plastic-wrapped Tim Tams for dessert when Abel Tasman rounded the head of Golden Bay in 1642 and first sighted land, that plastic packaging would still exist today.
Plastic production is increasing. 2 million tonnes of plastic was produced in 1950. Last year over 360 millions tonnes was produced.
Plastics are impossible to infinitely recycle. Only about 10% of the world's plastic is recycled and when those plastics are recycled they are downgraded, most often to packaging.
The impact of this cannot be overstated: plastics have been found on nearly every part of Earth’s surface, from the Northern most part of the Arctic, to the digestive tracts of most species including humans, insects and whales, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.