United Nations unveils draft binding treaty against plastic pollution
25 septiembre 2023


Single-use plastics. On September 25, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released the zero draft of the legally binding treaty on plastic pollution. The document structures the eventual content of the treaty, allowing for the possibility of funding the private sector to make the necessary changes in production to reduce the use of plastics. It also leaves open for debate the types of plastics and chemicals allowed or not allowed, as well as the progression in the reduction of plastic use. The initiative is actively supported by Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Uruguay. The published document will be discussed at the third session of the international negotiating committee to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, between November 13 and 19. 

In terms of implementation, the document calls on member countries to develop and implement a national plan for the reduction of single-use plastics. This national plan will have to contain, among other elements, which plastic products are problematic and why it is “essential” to avoid their use, the chemicals and polymers on which their export should be limited, the system of reuse, reduction and repair of plastics and plastic products, the use of recycled plastic products, extended producer responsibility, waste management and emissions in the plastic life cycle.

As for which plastics and chemicals to use or not to use, and what will be the progression in the production, distribution and sale of plastics use until their elimination are points that the draft does not yet contemplate. These provisions will be studied in future negotiation meetings of the committee. According to the members of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC), in charge of drafting the treaty, the drafting of the document is expected to be completed by the last months of 2024.

Next steps

The zero draft of the legally binding treaty on plastic pollution released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) will be discussed among UNEP representatives from various countries at a meeting to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, between November 13 and 19. The session will be preceded by regional consultations on the document to be held on November 12, 2023. Following the Kenya meeting, a further meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC) will be held April 21-30, 2024 in Ottawa, Canada to continue discussion on the final content of the treaty.

McDonald’s engagement opportunities

At the moment, the process of discussion of the eventual international treaty does not allow for any major advocacy by private organizations. However, once approved, each country will have to define whether to sign and ratify it at the national level as a step prior to its implementation with secondary rules. In this process, McDonald’s could adopt an important role through strategic approaches with members of each Executive or Legislative Branch to stimulate or limit its approval.