More than 2,000 experts wrapped up a week of negotiations on plastic pollution at one of the largest global gatherings to address what even industry leaders in plastics say is a crisis.
It was the first meeting of a United Nations committee to draft a landmark treaty to end plastic pollution globally.
“The world needs this treaty because we are producing plastics by the billions,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for plastics.
“Billions of tonnes of plastics are being produced every year, and there is absolutely no way to ensure that this plastic doesn’t end up in the environment.”
Entire beaches on what used to be pristine islands, are now covered with trash. Examination of a random handful of sand in many places reveals pieces of plastic.
The United Nations Environment Programme held the meeting in a city known for its beaches, Punta del Este, Uruguay, from Monday through Friday.
Delegates from more than 150 countries, plastic industry representatives, environmentalists, scientists, waste pickers, tribal leaders and others affected by the pollution attended in person or virtually.
Even in this first meeting of five planned over the next two years, factions came into focus. Some countries pressed for top-down global mandates, some for national solutions and others for both. If an agreement is eventually adopted, it would be the first legally-binding global treaty to combat plastic pollution.
The European Commission is also attempting to reduce plastic production in the bloc. On Wednesday, it proposed revising EU legislation to reduce packaging waste, including boosting recycling.
The proposal, which will be negotiated between EU member states and MEPs, aims to reduce the volume of packaging waste in each country by 10% per country and per capita by 2035.
To achieve this, Brussels intends to impose "binding targets" on businesses, particularly in the restaurant industry.
By 2030, 20% of hot and cold takeaway drinks should "be sold in a container that is part of a deposit system, or consumers should be able to refill their own containers." The EU will raise that rate to 80% by 2040.