On September 4, 2023, the United Nations Environment Programme released relevant pre conference materials for the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) aimed at developing a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution, including the "zero draft" text.
Although it is not the final clause of the convention negotiation, the "zero draft" text reflects the goals and tasks of United Nations Environment Assembly Resolution 5/14 by proposing key elements and alternative solutions, and uses this to solicit opinions and suggestions from various member states.
The 'Zero Draft' proposes 13 key elements for the full lifecycle dimension of plastics, including restrictions on plastic production, problematic plastic restrictions, product design, extended producer responsibility (EPR) system, use of recycled plastics, and waste management. For example:
Each contracting party is required to take necessary measures to prevent or mitigate the potential adverse effects of the production of native plastics (including their raw materials) on human health and the environment. The alternative plan also includes suggestions for countries to take necessary measures to reduce global plastic production and supply, as well as the requirement that each country's plastic production and supply should not exceed the set production reduction targets.
Restrictive requirements have been put forward for problematic plastic products, including those with short service life and disposable use, as well as those with purposeful addition of microplastics. A list of plastic products belonging to the above categories has been established, and countries are required not to produce, sell, import or export such products.
At the level of plastic product design, it is proposed that countries should take measures to improve the design of plastic products and packaging, requiring the reduction of the use of native plastics in design, improving the safety, durability, reusability, ability to be repackaged, repairable, and refurbishable of plastic products, and even providing the possibility of alternative use.
In terms of the use of recycled plastics, it is proposed that each contracting party should require plastic and plastic products produced within its territory, as well as post-consumer recycled plastics that contain a minimum percentage of safety and environmental protection in its market.
In terms of extending producer responsibility, it is proposed that all parties should establish and operate an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system to incentivize increased recyclability and promote higher recovery rates.
In terms of waste management, it is proposed that each contracting party should take effective measures to ensure the management of plastic waste in a safe and environmentally friendly environment at different stages, including treatment, collection, transportation, storage, recycling, and final disposal considering waste levels.
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