The Secretariat for the INC has published an advance version of a paper outlining elements that could potentially be included in an international plastics treaty currently under negotiation. The options are “based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastics.”

The elements paper (UNEP/PP/INC.2/4) will inform deliberations at the second session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC-2) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, pursuant to the mandate contained in the UN Environment Assembly’s (UNEA) “plastic pollution resolution” (UNEP/EA.5/Res.14). The paper draws on member States’ views expressed during INC-1 and on their written submissions covering the preamble, definitions, scope, and principles, as well as institutional arrangements related to the governing body, subsidiary bodies, scientific and technical cooperation and coordination, and the secretariat.

In total, the paper notes, States and groups of States made 67 submissions, and stakeholders and stakeholder groups were responsible for another 176. In addition, the INC Chair hosted two stakeholder webinars where 46 entities shared their views “to help inform Member States as they finalized their submissions.”

According to a note by the secretariat accompanying the elements paper, the 37-page document, released on 13 April 2023, aims to facilitate the INC’s work without prejudging “what the committee might decide regarding the structure and provisions of the future instrument.” INC-2 will convene in Paris, France, from 29 May to 2 June.

Options for the instrument’s objective, as reflected in the elements paper, range from ending plastic pollution and protecting human health and the environment, to reducing the production, use, and discharge of plastics across their life cycle.

Core obligations options include control measures and voluntary approaches, and relate to, inter alia:

  • Phasing out and/or reducing the supply of, demand for, and use of primary plastic polymers;
  • Banning, phasing out, and/or reducing the use of problematic and avoidable plastic products;
  • Banning, phasing out, and/or reducing the production, consumption, and use of chemicals and polymers of concern;
  • Reducing microplastics;
  • Strengthening waste management;
  • Fostering design for circularity;
  • Encouraging “reduce, reuse and repair” of plastic products and packaging;
  • Promoting the use of safe and sustainable alternatives and substitutes; and
  • Eliminating the release and emission of plastics to water, soil, and air.

Addressing existing plastic pollution; facilitating a just transition, including an inclusive transition of the informal waste sector; and protecting human health from the adverse effects of plastic pollution are also among the options for the instrument’s core obligations.

The section on the means of implementation outlines possible arrangements for capacity building and technical assistance, technology transfer, and financial assistance, which could be included as stand-alone provisions or as part of an integrated mechanism.

Options for implementation measures include national action plans, national reporting, compliance provisions, and periodic assessment and monitoring of the progress of implementation of the instrument and effectiveness evaluation.

The document also outlines options for additional measures that could address: awareness raising and education; information exchange; research; cooperation and coordination; and stakeholder engagement.

In addition, the paper contains a list of potential annexes to the instrument that could, inter alia:

  • List problematic and avoidable plastic products, criteria for determining problematic and avoidable plastic products, and possible dates for banning, phase-out, reduction, or control;
  • List polymers and chemicals of concern, criteria for determining polymers and chemicals of concern, and possible dates for banning, phase-out, reduction, or control;
  • List sources to limit the release of intentionally added microplastics;
  • Outline circularity criteria and guidance for the design and production of plastic products and packaging;
  • Specify criteria for determining the availability of safe alternatives and substitutes;
  • Describe categories of policy measures to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate releases of plastics to water, land, and air; and
  • List common elements and minimum content of national action plans.

The elements paper includes numerous boxes with comments from the secretariat “to help readers navigate the document.” [Publication: Potential options for elements towards an international legally binding instrument, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastics as called for by United Nations Environment Assembly resolution 5/14]