Consumer advocates call for ambitious global action against plastic pollution
Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing sustainability challenges facing people and planet, causing catastrophic damage to our health, wildlife, oceans and food supply. By 2040, it has been predicted that the plastic pollution on earth will weigh up to 1.3 billion tonnes.
But we can change course if decisive action is taken. The UN Environment Programme has stated that plastic pollution could be reduced by 80% with policy and market shifts. While consumers are increasingly willing to become part of that change – commitments are needed from government and business to help turn intention into action.
What is the plastics treaty?
In February 2022, a historic resolution was adopted at the United Nations Environment Assembly to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.
With discussions set to take place in five stages, Consumers International and Members will take part in the negotiations from this June 2023 to November 2024. The treaty aims to address the whole plastics lifecycle – from reducing the production and consumption of plastic, to eliminating harmful plastics and polymers, to improving waste management. There are also hopes that the process will initiate a global fund for the assistance of developing countries and set up global monitoring systems to track progress.
Consumers International will bring the perspectives and insights of our 200+ membership of consumer associations to the negotiating table. As part of our delegation, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG, India) and the Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor (IDEC, Brazil) will support and coordinate our interventions.
What are we calling for?
By 2024, we want to see a treaty which:
- Ends plastic pollution before 2040. Through subsidies and incentives for consumers, and enforceable regulations that ensure change from major plastic industry players – the treaty must reduce the production, use and discharge of plastics across their life cycle and move towards circularity through reuse and zero waste systems – with a view to ending plastic pollution before 2040.
- Helps to make sustainability an easy choice. This means enshrining the right to clear and credible information regarding the reuse and recycling of materials and accelerating efforts to offer consumers sustainable, accessible and affordable alternatives to plastics.
- Protects our health. Consumers are drowning in plastic. Microplastics can be found in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the clothes we wear – even running in our bloodstream. We want to see urgent action to address this issue and protect the health of people and planet.
Update from INC-2
In the first week of June 2023, we joined member state representatives, civil society, and business in Paris for the second stage of the negotiations (known as INC-2). This stage saw the beginning of more substantive discussions as negotiators begin to shape the treaty.
On day 3, we had a chance to speak to the plenary floor, where our delegation reiterated Inger Andersen's strong call to action - for solutions that go further than recycling alone. We argued that collaborative action is needed to redesign products, eliminate the most polluting plastics, and move towards circularity.
Update from INC-3
At INC-3, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 11-18 November, we emphasised that the fundamental rights of consumers need to be protected. The right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard.
One of the major topics we brought to the table was a call for transparency. Consumers should have access to complete and accurate information about products and services to make informed decisions. This includes clarity in pricing, product components, design, supply and manufacturing process, and any potential risks involved during the waste management process.
When meeting with member states delegates and other civil society and industry representatives, we called for collaboration to ensure effective regulation can protect consumers' health and environment.
You can read our key priorities and concerns in our flyer, 'Consumer Voices at the 3rd session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee'
The conference was a melting pot of ideas and discussions, but one thing was clear—our advocacy for consumer rights efforts for the past year resonated with many.
Our work on plastic
Consumers International has long worked to find consumer-focussed solutions to plastic pollution through bringing together consumer advocates, governments and businesses.
We work with the UN Environment Programme's Consumer Information for Sustainable Consumption & Production (CI-SCP) Programme, as part of SDG 12, to shine light on the consumer experience of plastic packaging and make recommendations to policy-makers, governments and businesses. Together, we published 'Can I recycle this?', to map standards, assessments, labels and claims on plastic packaging.
We will be in consultation with Members throughout the process to ensure global perspectives are taken into account as we work towards a plastic pollution free world. To learn more, contact email@example.com.