The UN treaty on plastic pollution must now move ‘from aspiration into action’. Leanne Gale, Executive Vice President, Group General Counsel, Nestlé S.A., explores what this might look like.


What we need

We are supporting the development of an ambitious, effective and legally binding UN Treaty to end Plastic Pollution. As a business operating globally, we need global rules and measures to create a level playing field so we can play our part in driving change on a global scale. We believe governments should establish harmonized regulations through binding provisions in the treaty. These regulations should focus on the reduction and circulation of plastics alongside the prevention and remediation of their leakage into our environment.

Where we stand

Negotiators need to get started now by adopting a start-and-strengthen approach. With just over one year of negotiating time planned before the Diplomatic Conference they must ensure that the treaty includes key provisions that are fully operational from the very beginning, and that it has the flexibility to further expand and update technical annexes on topics like product design, extended producer responsibility and others over time.

The zero draft is a good basis for UN member states to start discussions. It takes the right step towards harmonized regulations over the whole life-cycle of plastics, while laying the groundwork for additional inter-sessional work on key policy areas.

What we can still do

It is imperative to have a clearer definition of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) rules that require companies that introduce certain products or packaging into a country’s market to be responsible for funding and facilitating its post-consumer collection and processing.

Both the public and private sectors can work on building the provisions for EPR systems that take appropriate approaches for different sectors. This means that consumer goods packaging could be managed differently from fishing gear or construction equipment. Reference to an inclusive “Just Transition” should also be taken into account when developing EPR legislation for the millions of informal sector waste workers and workers in cooperatives.

Further, there is a need for guidance on identifying priority product categories that should be covered by EPR regulations. Looking to the future, a review process should be in place that allows the governing body of the treaty to amend, update and expand an annex on EPR guidelines.

What’s next

The gathering of the International Negotiations Committee in Nairobi next week represents a rare and real opportunity to make a positive change to our world by reassessing how we make, use and think about plastic. We hope negotiations will advance on the “Zero Draft” and agreement made to launch intercessional work on annexes. We will be present along with other members of the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty. Let’s make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to harmonize plastics regulation, enabling business to be a force for positive change.