Discussions begin at creating globally binding treaty on plastic pollution and trade

Inger Andersen opening the UNEP-led discussions on creating a treaty to combat plastic solution

A meeting has begun in Uruguay that will be the first step towards a goal of creating a globally binding treaty that ends plastic pollution.

Organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the meeting aims to agree the broad goals that will inform further discussions before the text of the treaty is finally agreed in 2024.


In her opening speech to the International Negotiating Committee to Develop an Internal Plastic Pollution meeting, UNEP executive director and under-secretary-general of the United Nations Inger Andersen set out four goals for the discussions. These were:

  • Build an instrument broad enough and deep enough to cover the whole plastics problem, while ensuring all countries can participate
  • Be informed by science and work with stakeholders to build a new plastics economy
  • Learn from other multilateral agreements (such as the Basel Convention) and work with them and innovate with them
  • Ensure adequate financial and technical assistance for developing countries.

She said: “We must eliminate and substitute problematic and unnecessary plastic items. Ensure that plastic products are designed to be reusable or recyclable. Ensure that plastic products are circulated in practice, not just theory. Manage plastics that cannot be reused and make sure that we talk about reductions or alternatives along the production chain.

“To get this done must cover the full lifecycle: from considering different types of polymers and plastic products to developing safe and environmentally sound waste management. Crucially, we must ensure that these actions take into account the principles of a just transition so that nobody is left behind.”

Speaking ahead of the event, which began on 28 November and was scheduled to last for two days, UNEP economy division director Sheila Aggarwal-Khan said: “We are not going to recycle or ban our way out of the plastic pollution crisis.

“Waste collection and recycling are extremely important, but they must be part of of an integrated approach.”

There will be a total of four meetings up to 2024, with it hoped that the treaty will be opened for signatures in November of that year.