In February 2022, at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), a historic resolution (resolution 5/14) was adopted to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment with the ambition to complete the negotiations by end of 2024.
The instrument is to be based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic. The INC will consider how to promote sustainable production and consumption of plastics from product design to environmentally sound waste management through resource efficiency and circular economy approaches.
The rapidly increasing levels of plastic pollution represent a serious global environmental issue that negatively impacts the environmental, social, economic and health dimensions of sustainable development. Under a business-as-usual scenario and in the absence of necessary interventions, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from some 9–14 million tonnes per year in 2016 to a projected 23–37 million tons per year by 2040.
The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-2) will take place from 29 May to 2 June 2023 at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris, France. The meeting will be preceded by regional consultations on 28 May 2023, at the same venue.
Plastic pollution and cities
Cities are major contributors of plastic pollution, disproportionally affecting the urban poor
400 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated every year, of which 288 million tonnes comes from municipal solid waste streams, comprising up to 70% of the total plastic waste generation. Moreover, plastic pollution from uncollected waste largely occurs in the most impoverished urban areas.
Many cities struggle to provide adequate municipal solid waste management
Many cities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, are struggling to properly manage the ever-increasing amount of waste due to rapid urbanization and economic growth. In the cases where plastic waste is collected, countries sometimes lack the capacity to process it.
Cities can act to help reduce plastic pollution
There are many ways to curb plastic waste—by producing less, consuming less, and better managing the waste that already exists to prevent contamination or leakage. Taking these actions requires engagement from numerous stakeholders in society, including local governments. Cities around the world are taking action to reduce plastic waste through initiatives such as bans on single-use plastic items, promotion of reusable alternatives, and improved waste management systems.
The transition needs to be carefully managed to leave no one behind
The people informally collecting and recovering solid waste significantly contribute to decreasing plastic pollution by improving municipal solid waste management. A just transition means that transition to sustainable production and consumption of plastic is designed in a manner that is as fair, inclusive, and equitable to the informal sector, generating and preserving decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.
Cities across the world are taking action
A growing number of local government are taking action against plastic pollution. Case studies and news linked below will provide illustrations of possible approaches.