New global discussions focus on halting plastic pollution

Thousands gather in Ottawa to draft a legally-binding treaty aimed at halting the surge of plastic pollution worldwide. Will it protect the environment and human health?

Jennifer McDermott reports for the Associated Press.


In short:

  • Global representatives are working to finalize a treaty that could dramatically alter plastic production and its environmental impacts.
  • The treaty's scope may include limits on production, hazardous chemicals and waste management, influenced by various international interests.
  • By the end of 2024, nations aim to adopt the first legally binding treaty to significantly reduce plastic pollution worldwide.

Key quote:
"People globally are disgusted by what they see. The straw in the turtle’s nose, the whale full of fishing gear. I mean, this is not the world we want to be in."

— Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP

Why this matters:

This treaty seeks to address not only the visible effects of plastic pollution but also its underlying ties to fossil fuel use and climate change. Progress was slow in the first three rounds of talks, which started at the end of 2022. Some countries, like the U.S., have largely supported voluntary measures to control plastic pollution -- a position that advocates say is insufficient to solve the plastic problem as global production continues to ramp up. As negotiations move forward in Ottawa, some groups are pushing the Biden administration to take a leadership role in the plastic treaty talks.

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