Media Release Plastic Pollution

Australia needs to take lead in global plastics treaty talks in Paris next week

May 23, 2023

●       Plastics in ocean expected to triple in 20 years unless urgent action taken
●       World needs to agree to framework to stop ocean plastic pollution
●       Virgin plastics production needs to be capped
●       Calls for a global ban on problem single-use plastics

The world needs global rules to cap plastics production to avoid an environmental crisis, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said ahead of the second negotiating meeting on a global plastics treaty in Paris next week.

Unless urgent action is taken, plastics in the ocean are expected to triple in the next 20 years[1] as global plastics production escalates. Already more than half of all sea turtles are estimated to have eaten plastic,[2] and more than 90% of marine species have been impacted by ocean plastics.[3] Plastics are the largest, most harmful and most persistent fraction of marine litter, accounting for at least 85 per cent of total marine waste.[4] Globally, just 15% of plastics are collected for recycling, with less than 9% actually recycled after losses.[5]

AMCS Plastics Campaign Manager Shane Cucow, who will be attending the Paris meeting, said: “Despite bans on single-use plastics and record investments in recycling, plastics, recovery rates have stagnated in Australia thanks to unscrupulous companies which produce more and more plastic every day.

“If we do not cap the production of new plastics, we will never be able to stem the flow of dangerous plastic waste that is filling up our oceans. This is the first time nations will be considering legally binding measures, such as rules for recyclability, trade provisions or caps on plastic production.

“We call on the world’s nations to implement a framework for limiting the use of virgin fossil fuel plastics, requiring global companies such as Coca-Cola and Unilever to use recycled content or shift to more sustainable substitutions.”

In addition to limits on the production of new plastic, AMCS is calling for the world’s nations to agree to a global ban on single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws and takeaway containers, after the success of such measures in Australia, and funding mechanisms to support island nations to deal with the tides of plastics on their shores.

Mr Cucow said: “Australia has an opportunity to be a leader in global plastics negotiations, with a proud history of success in reducing plastic litter through bans on single-use plastics and widely popular container deposit schemes.

“Single-use plastics such as bags, straws and food and beverage containers are some of the most commonly found plastics in our oceans. We urge the world’s nations to follow Australia’s example by banning these lethal plastics, and introducing a register of prohibited plastics.

“In Australia’s north, huge tides of plastics are polluting wild and remote places such as the Gulf of Carpentaria. Meanwhile, small island nations are dealing with huge inflows of plastic, yet have very limited space and money to deal with the waves of trash destroying their once beautiful homes.

“A global funding instrument is urgently needed to direct funding where it is needed most, to clean up plastic pollution hotspots and assist poorer nations to implement the infrastructure needed to stop plastic at the source.”