Ahead of next week’s inaugural negotiations on what will be included in the UN’s plastics treaty, WWF and Plastic Free Foundation release an Ipsos survey showing that an average of seven out of 10 people polled across 34 countries believe that the treaty should create binding global rules to end plastic pollution. This finding supports a growing number of UN member states that are pushing for the world’s first-ever plastic pollution treaty to include global rules and regulations for the production, design, and disposal of plastic rather than a patchwork of national or voluntary standards.
While some countries are advocating for less binding approaches, this research shows very little support for voluntary arrangements, with an average of only 14% of people thinking this is preferable. The large majority of citizens want to see a comprehensive set of measures included in the treaty: nearly 8 in 10 support rules for making producers more responsible for the plastic they generate, bans on difficult-to-recycle plastics, and labeling requirements (see notes for the survey findings).
The survey, which polled 23,029 respondents online, is the first body of research to explicitly ask citizens from around the world about what a global treaty to address plastic consumption and pollution should look like, and what particular rules people think are important or unimportant.
“Through Plastic Free Foundation’s initiatives like Plastic Free July, hundreds of millions of people from all corners of the world have taken personal action to reduce their plastic waste but many are also realizing that their individual responsibility must be matched and accompanied by global and systemic action for the world to make a dent in reversing our devastating plastic pollution footprint. This survey is further proof that there is broad and overwhelming public demand for an ambitious global plastic pollution treaty that makes governments and companies more responsible for the plastic they produce,” said Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Founder and Executive Director, Plastic Free Foundation.
Negotiations for this treaty are set to take place in a series of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meetings, with the first starting in Uruguay on 28 November, and the treaty’s negotiations are expected to be concluded by 2024.
During the two-year negotiation period alone, the total amount of plastic pollution in the ocean is tipped to increase by 15%. Currently, more than 2,000 animal species have encountered plastic pollution in their environment, and nearly 90% of studied species are known to be negatively affected. Failure by negotiators to agree on an ambitious treaty will continue the trend of ineffective government responses to the global plastic pollution problem which has seen the crisis spiral out of control over the last decade.
To help UN policymakers make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity, WWF has also published a report identifying the key mechanisms needed to unlock systemic change across the global plastics economy. The report details why binding global rules – rather than the current mixture of voluntary national approaches – are needed to drive systemic change at the speed and scale that can stop the surge of plastic waste doing further damage to the economy, the environment, and human health.
In particular, the treaty must establish concrete measures, including global product and material bans, mandatory requirements for design, labeling, and information-sharing to facilitate a circular economy, and improvements in collection and waste management. For the world to make any meaningful progress in reducing global plastic waste, these measures must be designed to reduce plastic pollution at source by banning the most harmful and problematic types of single-use plastics, fishing gear, and microplastics.
“People are confused and increasingly frustrated by the complex and often contradictory responses to the plastic pollution crisis from governments and industry alike. Through the survey, we sought to understand what the citizens of the world want to see happen and with the report, we wanted to identify the most effective steps that governments can take during the negotiations. Both sets of research show unequivocal support and the need for robust global regulation of plastics from production through to end-of-life management” said Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Lead, WWF International.
“Over the next two years, the negotiating process will likely expose fault lines and differences in what countries want from a global plastics treaty. We cannot allow laggards to determine our future and we urge governments to ensure that the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis we face – which has harmed our environments, ecosystems, and countless species including risking human health – is at the forefront of all of the choices they make. By 2025, we must have a treaty with teeth that is effective in ending plastic pollution.”