Home News Global Alliance calls on leaders to tackle plastic pollution crises

Global Alliance calls on leaders to tackle plastic pollution crises

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The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives has called on leaders to tackle the plastic pollution crisis and issues affecting individuals’ and communities’ health and rights.

The alliance made this known in a press statement released on Wednesday ahead of the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on plastic pollution which begins this week to negotiate a global plastics treaty.

Featuring representatives from a coalition of civil society organisations, the CSOs called on their leaders to urgently address the plastic crisis.

The alliance noted that with the problem escalating to massive proportions, the INCs stand as a decisive turning point in the battle against plastic pollution.

According to the alliance, the negotiations are not only an opportunity to address environmental concerns but also to tackle issues that affect the health and rights of individuals and communities.

“One of these issues is waste colonialism, which is the practice of illegal exporting of waste, from economically powerful countries in the Global North to lower-income countries in the Global South, which are ill-equipped to handle this waste. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the trade of waste is extensive. In the period from 2018 to 2021, the shipment of plastic garbage to Mexico had a growth of 121 per cent, according to a 2023 report,” the statement read in part.

GAIA Latin America & the Caribbean’s Zero Waste and Plastics Adviser, Alejandra Parra says: “To stop waste colonialism, we need to reduce plastics production. To make recycling useful, we need to reduce plastic production. To manage waste in an environmentally healthy manner, we need to reduce plastic production. To achieve the climate goals, we need to reduce plastic production.

“To respect human rights and planetary boundaries, we need to reduce plastics production. And that is what we must achieve with this plastics treaty that is currently being negotiated. But some countries don’t want this and are acting so this process fails. That is why we need to unite our voices because we are the ones suffering the worst consequences of plastic pollution and we need to be heard.”

Emphasizing that the plastic crisis didn’t start with the Global South, speakers stressed the need to correct a narrative that unfairly singles them out as the main culprits of plastic pollution.

“This narrative overlooks the significant role of the Global North, which not only contributes heavily to plastic production but also exports toxic plastic waste to developing nations, often disguising this under the guise of “trade.”

“With many African countries struggling with extreme poverty, they fall victim to toxic, unrecyclable plastic waste, e-waste, textile waste, and a range of different technological false solutions from corporations to attain economic development,” it added.

The GAIA/BFFP Africa Plastics Campaigner, Merrisa Naidoo stated that “Colonialism continues to manifest on the African continent in the form of ‘waste trade’ that permits the importation of toxic and non-recyclable waste into the continent from Global North countries.”

In detailing the situation in Africa, she explains, “Every day, markets in Accra, Ghana, and rivers in Kenya are inundated with Europe’s addiction to fast fashion, particularly plastic fibre-based apparel. This unjust practice places economic, social, and environmental burdens on Africa and its future generations. It reflects a disregard for Africa’s sovereignty and the laws in place to protect its people.

“Therefore, the Global Plastics Treaty must prioritize closing trade loopholes through a global plastics trade tracking system, imposing trade bans on plastics and associated chemicals post-phase-out, and strengthening the Y48 listing of plastics waste in Annex II of the Basel Convention to explicitly include paper waste contaminated with plastics, textiles, and Refuse-Derived Fuel too halt the dumping of these mixed plastic wastes on the continent. Africa is not a dumping ground.”

In addition, the Global South is advocating for a comprehensive set of crucial measures.

These include reducing plastic production, discontinuing harmful technologies like incineration, imposing strict limits on toxic chemicals in plastics, and adopting a transparent approach to chemical use.

The delegation underscores the importance of a just transition, the implementation of mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility based on the Zero Waste hierarchy, and a steadfast commitment to translating policies into practical operational regulations.

These mechanisms, they say, are important to preserve traditional knowledge within the Global South, which has abided by principles of preservation and reuse for centuries.

GAIA Asia Pacific’s Plastic Policy Officer, Arpita Bhagat emphasizes, “Before the industry introduced toxic plastics into our local systems, causing harm to our land and sea; cultures in the Asia and Pacific region prioritized co-existing with nature. This cultural value has also positioned us at the forefront of adopting Zero Waste solutions.

“The most significant opportunity for addressing global plastics pollution lies in an international agreement. This agreement should advocate for a policy mechanism mandating the transition away from plastics. We need a treaty grounded in human rights and justice, recognizing the role of petrochemicals in plastics by mandating a reduction in production, banning harmful chemicals and polymers, and discontinuing polluting technologies like incineration, plastics-to-fuel, and chemical recycling.

“Moreover, it should underscore scaling up reuse, safeguarding indigenous peoples’ rights, and facilitating a just transition for informal workers and waste pickers away from plastics and into Zero Waste systems. To ensure the effectiveness of this instrument, a conflict of interest policy is essential to prevent the industry’s disproportionate influence on negotiations and avoid maintaining the status quo.”

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