Technological watch

Some plastics firms join call for global plastics treaty

Several plastics firms are among more than 30 companies, environmental groups and governments calling for a new global treaty to tackle plastic pollution.

The companies, including Amcor, Borealis AG and Tomra, as well as multinational firms like Coca-Cola Co. and Unilever, on Oct. 14 issued what they termed a manifesto urging United Nations member countries to develop a global plastics treaty.

As well, a group of Nordic countries plans to issue a similar report Oct. 19 pushing for a new binding legal framework worldwide to address plastics in the environment.

The business group, which is part of a coalition with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund, said it wanted to go beyond the voluntary agreements that many companies have already made.

"These actions alone cannot solve this issue," the companies said. "A coordinated international response is needed, one that aligns businesses and governments behind a shared understanding of the causes of plastic pollution, and a clear approach to addressing them."

The group issued a report, "The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution," that argued that businesses are facing increased "reputational risk" around plastic in the environment, and said it "is no longer a question of whether regulation is coming, but what regulation is coming."

Polyolefins maker Borealis argued that, while there's been a doubling of voluntary initiatives and national regulations over the last five years, plastic continues to "leak into the environment at alarming rates."

"There is an urgent need to amplify current efforts through a more coordinated and ambitious approach," Borealis said in a news release. "The report sets out the opportunity for a new global UN treaty on plastic pollution to significantly accelerate progress towards a circular economy for plastics."

The report said the treaty should set a specific date for stopping plastics from entering the oceans, including having countries commit to "clear national targets and action plans," harmonized regulatory standards and definitions, and coordinated approaches to support infrastructure development and innovation.

"We have seen important steps taken by businesses and governments in addressing plastic pollution over recent years," said Ellen MacArthur, founder and board chair of the foundation that bears her name.

"But voluntary initiatives alone are not enough to solve plastic pollution and we believe governments and policymakers have a vital role to play," she said. "A binding global agreement that builds on the vision of a circular economy for plastic can ensure a unified international response to plastic pollution that matches the scale of the problem."

She urged the next meeting of the UN Environment Assembly, set for February, to start negotiations.

Stefan Ranstrand, CEO of recycling equipment maker Tomra, said there are many steps businesses can take, from "from auditing business supply chains to improve their sustainability to adopting new business operations that embrace circular economy models and maximize resource value."

"It is important business recognize they have a crucial role to play," he said.

Other corporate signatories include Constantia Flexibles, Pepsico Inc., Colgate Palmolive, Nestle and Procter & Gamble Co.

Publication date: 14/10/2020

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Last update: 2022-01-31