Robust global treaty for plastics the urgent solution we need now

New report warns of the dire growing impact of plastic pollution – an emergency for people and the planet

© EIA - Agriplastic Pollution Murcia Spain

The predicted rise in plastic pollution spilling into the environment constitutes a planetary emergency, warns a new report from the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

“There is a deadly ticking clock counting swiftly down,” said EIA Ocean Campaigner Tom Gammage. “Plastic emissions into the oceans alone are due to triple by 2040, in line with growing plastics production, and if this tidal wave of pollution continues unchecked, the anticipated 646 million tonnes of plastics in the seas by that date could exceed the collective weight of all fish in the ocean.”

Humankind’s addiction to plastic and failure to prevent it contaminating the food web directly undermines human health, drives biodiversity loss, exacerbates climate change and risks generating large-scale harmful environmental changes.

The new EIA report Connecting the Dots: Plastic pollution and the planetary emergency pulls together recent scientific data on the broad impact of plastics on climate, biodiversity, human health and the environment – and it warns that only a robust global treaty for plastics can address the problem.

© EIA - Agriplastic Pollution Murcia Spain

The United Nations recently identified three existential environmental threats – climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – and concluded that they must be addressed together.

But although dedicated multilateral agreements to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change have been in place for nearly 30 years, no such tool currently exists to tackle plastic pollution, despite it being one of the most prevalent and destructive pollutants in existence.

Launching the report, Gammage said: “The visible nature of plastic pollution has generated huge public concern but the vast majority of plastic pollution impacts are invisible.

“The damage done by rampant overproduction of virgin plastics and their lifecycle is irreversible – this is a threat to human civilisation and the planet’s basic ability to maintain a habitable environment.”

Connecting the Dots has been released ahead of a major UN Environment Assembly meeting in Nairobi, rescheduled from February to April, at which it is anticipated every nation’s relationship with plastic will be redefined and decided.

EIA has been at the forefront of global voices calling for, and working towards achieving, a global plastics treaty as a matter of urgency.

Connecting the Dots makes recommendations on how to ensure multidimensional, long-term and collaborative policy which considers plastic pollution as a planetary boundary threat and takes into account its knock-on impacts on other environmental crises.