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Calling for Global Environmental System Change: Why We Support the UN’s Global Plastic Treaty

By: Rachel Kipar, Manager of Circular Ventures at The Recycling Partnership

To turn the dream of a healthy, vibrant planet into reality, the time for action is now. There is an enormous opportunity for system change with the United Nations’ groundbreaking international resolution calling for an end to plastic pollution. As Climate Week NYC and U.N. General Assembly meetings coincide this September, now is the perfect time to address both international and domestic strategies and collaborative opportunities to further the wellbeing of our planet and advance the circular economy.

Often referred to as the U.N. Global Plastic Treaty, this resolution notes the negative impacts of plastic pollution on the terrestrial and marine environments, in addition to social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Further, it recognizes the importance of science-based approaches, collaboration, and sustainable product and material design, among other factors, to address the issue of plastic pollution. In practice, the resolution establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop a multilateral agreement to curb plastic pollution by the end of 2024, focusing on a wide range of considerations and activities to finance, build capacity, and measure reductions in plastic pollution. Strategies to address the complex problem of plastic pollution must be designed and implemented for systemwide transformation, grounded in science and scalable to fit the unique needs of each participating country.

In anticipation of the pending Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee work, The Partnership submitted recommendations to the UNEP’s Ad-hoc open-ended working group (OEWG) grounded in research and circular economy expertise to help ensure effective and efficient meetings, broad stakeholder engagement, and most importantly, actionable outcomes with measurable impact. For example, our submission encourages robust and transparent data-gathering and clear objectives that consider perspectives from across the circular value chain. In order to build, operate, and design the circular system of the future, we must lean into a multi-pronged approach with an eye toward action, catalyzed by blended capital from public-private partnerships and grants, smart policy, innovative and accessible technology, bold stakeholder commitment, and on-the-ground community engagement.

With years of experience in bringing stakeholders together to create solutions, The Recycling Partnership was made for driving action. For nearly a decade, we’ve reached millions of households, diverted hundreds of millions of incremental pounds of valuable recyclables from landfills, and led innovation to transform system infrastructure to achieve a circular system. As we work collaboratively toward designing the system of the future, our submission also speaks to how the size of the solution must match the size of the problem. Incremental, piecemeal system change will not work. Period. It’s going to take all of us – communities, companies, policymakers, recycling facilities and more—working together quickly to secure the future we know is possible. We look forward to continuing engagement with fellow stakeholders and government partners to raise awareness and work to scale needed system change.

Read The Recycling Partnership’s full submission to the U.N.’s open-ended working group on plastic pollution.

The Partnership's Submission to the U.N.