The reinstated environment secretary, Dr Thérèse Coffey, commenced talks with stakeholders on 1 November surrounding a potentially legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution by 2040.
The preliminary talks were spearheaded by the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network (OPNL) and included civil representatives, scientists, and environment groups. The aim is to strengthen the UK’s negotiating position at the international United Nations Environment Programme discussion, opening on 28 November 2022 in Uruguay.
The range of stakeholders present, from Tesco to Greenpeace, reflects that the whole lifecycle of plastic needs to be considered in reduction measures, from reuse systems and consumption decrease to improved waste management systems.
Including the whole value chain is vital
According to a recent report published by the Pew Charitable Trusts current global commitments will only reduce the annual discharge of plastic into the ocean by 7% by 2040, so including the whole value chain is vital.
The government have stated that “unless action is taken there will be a threefold increase in the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean between 2016 and 2040”. Recent UK policy surrounding plastic use includes the plastic packaging tax, various bans on items such as microbeads and plastic straws, and the plastic carrier bag charge.
We also know that the packaging reforms, primarily Extended Producer Responsibility and upcoming Deposit Return Schemes, should change the way plastic waste is managed. Whether or not government will use powers under the Environment Act to build on these remains to be seen.
Still a long way to go
Innovation and policy director Robbie Staniforth commented "It is pleasing to see the minister immediately corralling stakeholders into discussions about eliminating plastic pollution. There has been positive progress in the past few years but there is still a long way to go."
"Plastic pollution remains a key issue to resolve for packaging producers. However, eliminating pollution won't just require action from brands and retailers, citizens will need to take greater responsibility for their consumption habits if we are to create a world where there is genuinely no pollution."