UN Environment Assembly approves international agreement to reduce plastic pollution
2 marzo 2022


Single-use plastics. The fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) ended on March 2. Within this framework, representatives of 175 countries approved the bill that seeks to create a binding international instrument to reduce plastic pollution and promote the recycling of plastic products. Likewise, the bill creates an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) that will draft the content of the instrument, which can then be ratified by those countries that wish to do so. Those countries that endorse the document will be obliged to implement the measures included. 

The bill establishes that the future international agreement should contain various alternatives to address the complete life cycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and recognizes the need for greater international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, which will enable the implementation of the initiative. In addition, the text establishes the creation of the RCN, which, according to the UN, will collaborate with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in facilitating discussions and disseminating international practices in this area.

After the approval of the bill, the Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, expressed that this “is the most important multilateral environmental agreement since the Paris Agreement”. She also mentioned that in parallel to the development of the agreement, the Program will work with governments and companies willing to stop using single-use plastics, “as well as to mobilize private financing and remove barriers to investment in research and a new circular economy”.

Next steps

With the bill approved at UNEA-5, the INC is expected to be constituted and begin work in the coming months with the aim of starting to draft the future agreement. The UN’s goal is to finalize it by the end of 2024. In addition, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will convene a forum by the end of the year in conjunction with the first session of the INC to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world.

Engagement opportunities

In terms of engagement with the United Nations, the focus will be on aligning McDonald’s objectives with the UN’s 2030 global goals to minimize the use of short-lived plastics. Within the framework of “sharing knowledge and best practices” of UNEP, McDonald’s will be able to participate in the debates promoted by the agency in conjunction with the Executive, Legislative and different regional bodies to discuss the company’s experience in addressing the sustainability strategy to reduce single-use plastics and reduce emissions from restaurants.