By Sharon Atieno

As the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution converges in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, for the third round of negotiations, they have been urged to move the Zero draft into a global plan to tackle plastic pollution.

The Zero draft is a draft of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, which includes both binding and voluntary approaches, based on a comprehensive approach to address the full life cycle of plastic. It is guided by the views expressed at the committee’s first and second sessions in Uruguay and France, respectively.

Every year, more than 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced globally. Of these, 23 million tonnes find their way into rivers, lakes and oceans, and less than 10 percent is recycled.

Kenya’s President William Ruto speaking during the opening of the session, said that the threat of plastics to the planet, health and the future is of such a magnitude that it requires concerted efforts from everybody both in the Global South and North to develop and execute a global instrument that will help the world to neutralize it.

“The global community is waiting with great anticipation for the instrument that you will develop to chart a global plan for tackling plastic pollution,” he said, adding

“This anticipation is heightened by the zero draft, and it is the shared belief of many that this third session presents an opportunity for you, distinguished delegates, to convert the draft into a plan.”

In her remarks, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen, said the resolution passed at the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022 (UNEA 5.2) called for an instrument that is, ‘based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic.’

“Not an instrument that deals with plastic pollution by recycling or waste management alone. The full life cycle. This means rethinking everything along the chain, from polymer to pollution, from product to packaging,” she added.

“We need to use fewer virgin materials, less plastic and no harmful chemicals. We need to ensure that we use, reuse, and recycle resources more efficiently. And dispose safely of what is left over. And use these negotiations to hone a sharp and incisive instrument to carve out a better future, free from plastic pollution.”

During the UNEA 5.2, around 170 nations agreed to launch negotiations toward a globally binding instrument on plastic pollution. The scope of the instrument was supposed to reflect the requirement of Resolution 5/14 of UNEA, including ending plastic pollution across the full life cycle of all plastics and addressing its effects on human health and the environment, especially the marine environment.

INC was tasked to draft a global instrument that promotes sustainable product design and eliminates the most harmful and high-risk plastic categories, including problematic polymers, chemicals of concern, products and, and brings overall plastic production to sustainable levels.

The draft should also ensure the need to enshrine sustainable production and consumption patterns and environmentally sound management of plastic waste, which also addresses existing plastic pollution.

Additionally, it should support the application of the Rio Principles, including the polluter pays and precautionary principles, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and emphasize the importance of operationalizing those principles throughout the provisions of the instrument.

The Chair of the INC, Gustavo Adolfo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez, noted that they had the first round of discussion on all elements of the future instrument.

“It is my hope that by the end of the session, the Committee will agree on a mandate for a revised draft and possible intersessional work to prepare for the fourth and fifth sessions,” he added.

“I am confident that we can make substantive progress here at our third session and capitalize on the Nairobi spirit, consensus and ambition.”

INC began its work on developing a binding instrument on plastic pollution during the second half of 2022 and is expected to complete it by the end of 2024.