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Deliberations on a Plastic Pollution Treaty

Jacob Greenlee

Among the most pronounced consequences of human activity on the environment is the gargantuan amount of plastic that covers the beaches and waterways of the world. With over a trillion pounds produced annually, a statistic set to double by 2045, living in a world surrounded by plastic and its harmful effects seems inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be. Over 2,000 representatives of countries, plastic-producing companies, and local communities met together on December 2nd to begin fleshing out an agreement that will aim to reduce or entirely eliminate plastic production worldwide. The United Nations Environmental Program held the meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and it is the first of a total of five planned to come together by 2024. Considering the multiple challenges of accounting for plastic pollution across the whole globe, two major factions have arisen in response.

The first major faction, supported by several European, African, and Latin American countries, favors the “global” approach of supporting a universal mandate to end several types of plastic production by 2040 completely. They reason that it will allow a unified standard from which countries can more effectively act, superior to unorganized, independent initiatives that have been the standard so far. The second faction includesOn the other hand are the countries that support national approaches that may allow for more flexibility with which plastic products should be eliminated. Supporters of this approach include top plastic and oil producers such as the United States, Saudi Arabia, and China. Additional arguments from this faction claim that it is not so much a plastic production problem as a waste management problem. The next discussion will take place in France in May 2023, where the factions will be able to develop their ideas while examining how to reduce the demand for plastics overall.

The future of the Earth depends on the results of these meetings. Only around nine percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, and the vast remainder ends up in landfills to be burned, contributing greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, a quarter of ten thousand commonly used chemicals in plastic production are known to include endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that can cause cancer and hormonal problems. Finally, microplastics billowing into the air annually cause the estimated equivalent of several billion plastic bottles to fall into the US from the atmosphere, causing grave environmental harm. By reducing plastic production, the price of plastic could increase, stimulating demand for recycling and greatly diminishing the amount of pollution the Earth suffers.


  1. “Negotiators take first steps toward plastic pollution treaty,” Jennifer Mcdermot. t

  2. “Countries are negotiating a global plastics treaty. It won’t be easy,” Michael Birnbaum.

  3. “The Planet Desperately Needs That UN Plastics Treaty,” Matt Simon.

  4. “At UN Talks, Countries Divided on Approach to Plastics Agreement,” Hellen Huang.


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