UN’s first draft of Global Plastics Treaty targets toxic chemicals across the entire life cycle of plastic
On 4th September 2023, the United Nations Environment Programme published a first draft of the Global Plastics Treaty, which includes measures to address chemicals of concern in plastics at all stages of a plastic’s life cycle.
The publication follows an agreement made by UN member countries in 2022 to develop an international legally binding instrument – the Treaty – to address plastic’s toxic life cycle and end plastic pollution. So far, there have been two rounds of negotiations on the treaty and the draft text will form the basis of the next round of discussions, due to take place in Kenya in November 2023.
To date, over 13,000 chemicals have been associated with plastics. However, only 7,000 of these have sufficient data to determine their human or environmental health impacts – half of which have at least one hazardous property of concern.
A supporting document to the Global Plastics Treaty draft provides suggested criteria with which to identify chemicals of concern that require action. This includes chemicals that can cause cancer, genetic mutations, or are toxic to reproduction (CMRs); chemicals that can interfere with the normal functioning of the hormone system (EDCs) such as certain phthalates; and persistent chemicals such as PFAS, that do not break down in the environment.
The Global Plastics Treaty draft provides three options to address chemicals and polymers of concern in plastics (polymers are the chemical building blocks that make up plastic).
The first option is the most robust and would require member countries “eliminate” chemicals and polymers of concern in plastic production. The second provides a weaker approach, and its focus would be on minimising rather than eliminating chemicals of concern. The third option is the least protective, and would allow UN member countries to individually determine how to regulate these chemicals.
CHEM Trust welcomes the proposed measures to address chemicals of concern across the entire life cycle of plastic. We have been campaigning for many years for restrictions on hazardous chemicals in plastics – in particular bisphenols and phthalates. We have also been a member of the Break Free From Plastic movement since 2016, which involves over 12,000 organisations and individuals working together to stop plastic pollution.
CHEM Trust will follow the plastics treaty negotiations and we hope to see the adoption of robust and comprehensive measures to address harmful chemicals at all stages of a plastic’s life cycle.
For more information on how to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals, see our reduce your risk website pages.