According to a new Ipsos survey commissioned by WWF and the Plastic Free Foundation, an average of 85% of respondents want ‘unnecessary, avoidable, and harmful’ single-use plastics to be banned worldwide via a Global Plastics Treaty.

Over 430 million tonnes of virgin plastic are said to be produced every year. 60% of this figure is single-use, yet only 9% of that plastic is thought to be recycled worldwide. Now that such plastics are thought to constitute more than 70% of plastic pollution in the ocean, consumers are pushing for such plastics to be banned worldwide.

The results precede the fourth International Negotiation Committee meeting taking place in Ottowa, Canada, between 23rd and 29th April, wherein discussions around a Global Plastics Treaty will continue.

Another survey from Greenpeace has shed light on similar support for the eradication of single-use plastics. 82% of the consumers it surveyed, and 87% of those questioned by Ipsos, argue that the Treaty should ‘provide a clear pathway’ in the effort to drive down plastic production worldwide.

Ipsos’ results also reveal that 90% of respondents back a ban on harmful chemicals used in plastics, while 87% wanted plastic products to be kept out of any countries that cannot easily or safely recycle them.

Yet consumers felt that bans were not a silver bullet in overcoming the plastic pollution crisis. Many felt that the current plastics system should be redesigned to develop safe reuse and recycling systems.

More specifically, 87% of respondents believed that manufacturers should invest in and provide reuse and refill systems; and 72% felt that all countries should be granted access to the funding, technology, and resources necessary to facilitate a just transition.

“The severity of the plastic pollution crisis and the need for immediate global action is universally understood by individuals from every corner of the world,” said Erin Simon, vice president and head of Plastic Waste + Business at WWF-US. “As negotiators get to work on the next round of treaty talks, equipped with these survey results, the only path forward is one where countries agree to finally put an end to the visible and invisible impacts of plastic pollution.

“Now is the time for a legally binding treaty that delivers both what the people want, and what the planet desperately needs.”

Treaty negotiations are expected to come to a close later this year. Within that time, WWF encourages ‘immediate action’ to be taken to come to a ‘meaningful agreement’.

“Few ordinary citizens are involved in the negotiations for a global plastic pollution treaty despite living on the frontlines of the crisis,” Eirik Lindebjerg, global plastics lead at WWF International, commented. “Yet the survey shows citizens have a high level of awareness, concern and engagement on what is needed to end plastic pollution, and are rejecting the toxic and unjust plastics ecosystem that’s been imposed on them through lax laws and profit-oriented businesses.

“Right now, we are at a crossroads. The upcoming negotiations in Ottawa will determine whether we get the treaty that was promised by the end of 2024, or not.

“We know from other environmental treaties that nothing less than binding global rules and obligations across the plastics value chain will halt the problem. Settling for anything less is indefensible.

“An overwhelming majority of countries have already called for the binding global rules needed - our leaders must now turn these calls into action.”

These results are consistent with those of previous Ipsos surveys, in which the general public indicated their support for governments to be held to legally binding rules under a global plastic pollution treaty.

The first of these surveys was released before the international agreement to draft such a treaty in March 2022. Almost nine out of ten of its respondents felt that legislation of this kind would be an important step in tackling plastic pollution.

Similarly, the second survey took place in the lead up to the first round of treaty negotiations in December 2022. At this point, the global rules desired by consumers included banning single-use plastics (75%) and holding plastic producers responsible for the reduction of their own plastic pollution and waste (78%).

Now consumers are calling for governments to cut down on worldwide plastic production, ban any avoidable and harmful plastics, and ensure the safe reuse and recycling of any plastics that remain.

“The survey findings show that public opinion squarely backs a profound transformation of our relationship with plastics,” explained Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, founder and executive director of Plastic Free July and the Plastic Free Foundation. “But as public support builds for a strong and binding global plastic pollution treaty, we are seeing a small minority of governments trying to move in the opposite direction, demanding an opt-in approach rather than a set of fair and consistent rules.

“This is out of step with both global public expectations and evidence that strong and legally binding rules are the only way to reverse this global problem.”

Now WWF and the Plastic Free Foundation calls for a legally binding treaty that will ‘phase out, if not immediately ban, the most harmful substances and products; design global product requirements that ensure remaining plastic products can be easily reused and recycled; and put in place strong financial mechanisms to support a just transition.’

In their own study, Zero Waste Europe, Searious Business, and National Hawker Federation posited that implementing reusable systems for 80,000 street vendors in Kolkata, India, would reduce plastic waste by over 86%. They encouraged the Indian delegation attending INC-3 to campaign for a legally binding, time-bound Global Plastics Treaty that, among other measures, would protect the safety and livelihoods of workers and communities across the plastics supply chain.

Meanwhile, our brand director, Tim Sykes, brought together a line-up of representatives from the corporate, NGO, and academic sectors on a panel dedicated to UNEP treaty discussions at the Sustainable Packaging Summit 2023; and Searious Business’ CEO and founder, Willemijn Peeters, spoke to us after the third round of negotiations, outlining the discussions she felt were steps forward – and the areas wherein progress was said to stall.

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