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The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is concerned that the global plastics treaty talks in Ottawa next month could turn into an “activist wish list.”

Norbert Sparrow

March 18, 2024

3 Min Read
President Biden at podium
Kent Nishimura, Stringer, Getty News

Ahead of the fourth — and final — round of meetings of the global plastics treaty talks next month in Ottawa, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has requested a meeting with President Biden. In a letter sent to the White House on March 15, ACC President and CEO Chris Jahn outlined the elements needed for a successful global plastics agreement and asked to meet with the president to “address priority issues going into the fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4)” meeting in Canada, according to a news release from the ACC.

Pushing back on regulatory overreach

While the stated goal of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) leading the talks is the development of a legally binding instrument to regulate plastic pollution worldwide, a reduction in plastics production and in some cases outright bans are seen as means to that end for a significant number of stakeholders in the discussions. As PlasticsToday correspondent Geoff Giordano noted in his reporting on INC-3 in Nairobi, “a 55-nation coalition and environmental activists . . . aim to end plastic pollution with an agreement that enforces some combination of caps on plastic production, restrictions on hazardous chemicals, and bans on hard-to-recycle plastics.” The ACC, which represents US plastics manufacturers and the value chain, understandably finds such regulatory overreach concerning.

Related:Who’s Afraid of a Global Plastic Treaty?

Maintaining US competitiveness

“The agreement has an opportunity to advance commonsense solutions that preserve the irreplaceable value plastics provide the world, maintain US competitiveness, and keep plastics out of the environment,” said Ross Eisenberg, president of America’s Plastic Makers, part of ACC, in the letter to President Biden. “We are concerned that the negotiations are moving away from the original intent of the UNEA 5/14 resolution to end plastic pollution and instead turning into an activist wish list to end plastic. We’re asking President Biden to meet with us to discuss practical ways we can eliminate plastic pollution through an effective agreement all countries can join that doesn’t eliminate the massive societal benefits plastics provide.”

America’s Plastic Makers has set a goal of reusing, recycling, or recovering 100% of US plastics packaging by 2040. It aligns with the ACC in its belief that the United States must continue to use its “domestic regulatory authorities to address plastic pollution constructively and intelligently, while also pressing for implementable language in the global agreement that spurs circularity and eliminates plastic pollution.”

Bullet points for Biden

In the letter to Biden, key elements of an effective global agreement are outlined, including:

  • A requirement for globally harmonized measures that promote effective implementation of the agreement, while recognizing national and local circumstances;

  • national assessments and progress reports on plastic waste reduction;

  • mechanisms to accelerate the use of recycled plastics through public-private partnerships and blended finance.

Following a UNEP resolution in March 2022 to pursue a global plastics treaty, negotiating sessions thus far have taken place in Uruguay from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, 2022; Paris from May 29 to June 2, 2023; and Nairobi from Nov. 13 to 19, 2023. The fourth session, INC-4, is scheduled for April 21 to 30, 2024, in Ottawa, and a fifth meeting will be held in South Korea in November. UNEP’s goal is to complete negotiations by the end of 2024.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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