Slow Progress on Global Plastic Pollution Treaty Worries Scientists

Global Plastic Pollution. Last week, a bunch of scientists gathered at the United Nations’ place in Nairobi. They were all about getting rid of plastic pollution worldwide. But guess what? They were bummed out by how things were going.

Frustration at the UN Meet-Up

The scientists told Nature that things at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters were moving at a snail’s pace. Douglas McCauley, a smarty-pants from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said they’ve only got about a year left for this whole deal, and it’s nowhere near where it should be.

What Went Wrong?

Ana Rocha from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) was super disappointed. She said that a small group of countries, mostly big on oil and plastic, slowed things down. The plan was to have a legit document everyone agreed on, but it didn’t quite work out.

Getting Down to Business

McCauley, the ecology guru, said that it’s time to get the words on paper. He wants this treaty to be the real deal: specific, binding, and full of ambition. He’s hoping scientists can help get everyone on board for a super strong deal. According to him, time’s running out.

The Plastic Problem

This whole global treaty thing started in March 2022, with a bunch of nations deciding to make a legal deal to tackle plastic pollution. It’s a huge problem. Humanity churns out more than 450 million tonnes of plastic every year. And get this, around 22% of plastic trash isn’t managed properly—it’s just dumped in open spaces instead of being properly handled.

The Treaty Draft

They came up with a ‘zero draft’ of this treaty back in September. It’s got a bunch of points to tackle, like reducing plastic production, better waste management, no more single-use plastics, and using recycled materials. But at the recent meeting, they didn’t exactly make things clearer. The options got more confusing instead of narrowing down.

The Split Views

Different groups have different ideas. Some want strict rules, like cutting down plastic production for everyone, while others prefer each country to decide its pollution goals. It’s a clash between reducing plastic and improving how we handle waste.

The Scientist’s Call

A gang of 250 brainy scientists from 50 countries is rooting for legally binding goals to cut down plastic production. They’re aiming high, pushing for solutions that go beyond just recycling.

Too Many Nasty Chemicals

This plastic mess involves over 13,000 chemicals, and more than 4,000 of them are bad news. Bethanie Carney Almroth, part of the science squad from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, says only 1% of these chemicals have any rules around them.

Why the Rush?

Time’s ticking, and the scientists need more data to figure out realistic targets. But they’re missing that key info on how much plastic we need to cut down based on evidence.

What’s the Fix?

McCauley and pals launched an online tool to help politicians figure out how different plans will affect waste. They’re looking for a way to almost wipe out mismanaged plastic trash.

The Bottom Line

McCauley’s pretty stoked about it all, saying that even though it’s a huge problem, there’s a way to fix it. But he’s clear that a wishy-washy treaty would be worse than nothing at all.