History in the making: Advances on a global plastics treaty and a toxic-free future

The Rethink Plastic alliance welcomes the mandate to advance an international treaty on plastic and a wide variety of measures to address chemicals and waste.


NAIROBI, KENYA On 2 March, the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA) adopted a resolution “End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument ​”, which foresees that a Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee will be convened to “develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution”. 

“Following Rwanda and Norway, EU member states have been some of the first to throw their weight behind a legally binding agreement on plastics. Despite having world-leading policy initiatives such as the Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy, the EU has made it clear that domestic policies on plastic pollution won’t matter if there isn’t global coordination. Over the past days many delegations have participated online with limited access to informal discussions, and the EU’s role throughout these negotiations has been paramount in driving the ambition of the mandate. We hope to see a similar level and form of engagement throughout the negotiations that will decide the design elements of the treaty itself,” said Tom Gammage, Ocean campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance.

Giulia Carlini, Senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, said on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance: “The resolution adopted this week is the result of a decade of work, yet it is also just the beginning of the negotiation process to secure an ambitious legally binding treaty to address the plastic crisis at a global scale. ​​This is a turning point in the fight against plastic pollution, but only if countries live up to the challenge. We look at the EU and we hope policymakers will keep their promises and act in line with the leadership role the EU has played during the negotiations to move towards ending plastic pollution at source, focusing on reducing production and redesigning products for non-toxicity, reusability and durability”. 

“The EU should also weigh in to ensure that any future negotiation process is inclusive and right-based and that civil society organisations are given the space and means to contribute meaningfully “ she added. 

Similarly, the 5th session of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA) also adopted a resolution on “Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste” which includes a request to update the state of the science report on Endocrine Disruptors Chemicals (EDCs) by 2024. EDCs disrupt the hormone system in humans and animals. They have very serious effects even at low doses, ranging from infertility to cancer, and can disrupt human brain development.

“World leaders are finally supporting what civil society has been saying for years. It’s critical to have more data on the impacts of EDC on human health and the environment. Yet, this shouldn’t delay the much-needed transition towards a toxic-free world. We hope the European Commission will step up and deliver on its commitments on EDCs by developing a legally binding hazard identification that applies across legislation and includes provisions that will ban EDCs from products and packaging. The upcoming REACH revision is a golden ticket to speed up action to minimize our exposure to Endocrine Disruptors, in line with the EU Chemicals Strategy.” said Giulia Carlini, Senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance.

Media contacts: 

Rossella Recupero, Communications Associate, Center for International Environmental Law, [email protected], +39 340 47 39 827 

Bethany Spendlove Keeley, Europe Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic, [email protected], +49 176 5958 794

Rethink Plastic