Plastics NZ has celebrated the UN decision this week to create a global plastics agreement. The organizations’ CEO Rachel Barker was excited to watch the birth of a global plastics agreement at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2).

“Receiving a standing ovation, this decision is a real game-changer in our fight to eliminate plastic pollution, and to move to a truly circular economy for plastics. The leakage of plastics into our environment is a global problem that needs coordinated global action. Plastics are necessary for achieving our sustainability and climate goals, but they should never end up in landfill, or worse, our waterways. We must use these valuable materials in a responsible and circular manner.”

Over the last two weeks, representatives from the UN’s 193 member states have worked tirelessly, over many late nights, to create the framework for the agreement. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) will now drive action with the goal of completing the agreement in time for UNEA 6 in March 2024. This short timeframe reflects the urgency with which plastics pollution must be addressed.

Rachel Barker said she commended the New Zealand government’s support for a legally binding global agreement and looks forward to continued discussions. “Our government has taken a progressive approach, working with stakeholders across the plastics ecosystem to define its national action plan. It is pleasing that the UN also recognises the importance of working collaboratively with all stakeholders, including those making and using plastics. An inclusive agreement, considering diverse national needs and capabilities, will allow indigenous peoples, communities, environmental groups, scientists, and universities, to contribute right alongside governments and the private sector.”

She continued “The mandate for the global agreement is broad. It goes far beyond marine litter and single-use plastics. The plastics agreement will cover the full lifecycle of all plastics and will include both binding and voluntary approaches to resolve the issues at local and global levels. It will focus on the elimination of plastic pollution, including microplastics, from land, waterways, and our oceans. The implementation of such an agreement will be truly transformational in its impacts and provides a solutions-focused pathway.”

Ms Barker added “The agreement will also promote the sustainable production and consumption of plastics, improved product design, environmentally sound waste management, resource efficiency, and circular economy approaches. This is an exciting moment in history that moves us a significant way forward in our journey to eliminate plastic pollution and to transition to a circular plastics system. It is also an important step in the journey towards a low-emissions circular economy for all resources. Plastics NZ looks forward to working with our partners and other stakeholders on accelerating action towards this better future.”