WTO looking at plastic recycling standards and dropping trade barriers

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WTO plastic conference

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has revealed that it is looking at policies including plastic recycling standards and dropping trade barriers as ways to combat plastic pollution.

Speaking at the Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution, WTO deputy director-general Jean-Marie Paugam listed specific policy tools that could be used to reduce plastic pollution through trade.

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These are:

  • lowering the trade barriers to environmental goods and services required for plastics circularity
  • working on standards and regulations needed to ensure recyclability and compostability
  • facilitating helping to build capacities for more circular supply chains
  • exploring economic drivers of more sustainable plastics and alternatives to plastics, including the topic of harmful subsidies.

Jean-Marie Paugam added: “There is a growing recognition that the way we produce, consume and dispose of plastics causes significant damage to our environment and to our health. The accumulation of plastic pollution in the environment puts at risk the ocean and land resources that so many of our communities depend upon for their livelihoods.

“Therefore, several of our members consider that moving towards a more circular and sustainable economy is essential and that such an effort should include trade and trade in plastic as an element.

“This growing recognition has already led to some initiatives and some action. Back in November last year, a group of WTO Members launched an Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade – or IDP. Since this launch, discussions on the topic have more than quadrupled at the WTO, seeking to identify key opportunities for enhanced trade cooperation to support domestic, regional, and global efforts against plastic pollution.

“Participants to this dialogue are discussing multiple aspects of how trade intersects with the plastics pollution challenge, from ‘hidden flows’ of trade in ’embedded plastics’ to concrete trade opportunities for sustainable plastic alternatives and secondary raw materials.”

The environment ministries of Germany, Ghana, Ecuador and Vietnam are convening the high-level meeting in preparation for the 5th UN Environmental Assembly next year.

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