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MESSAGE TO NEGOTIATORS: As delegates from various countries meet in Uruguay for the first intergovernmental plastics treaty negotiations, women leaders from the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) don

Group seeks protection from plastic chemicals, pollution 

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As the first meeting this week of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC1) to develop a global legally-binding instrument on plastics progresses, the toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition affirmed the urgency to protect humans and other living organisms from plastic chemicals and waste pollution. 

In a press statement, the advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society reiterated the importance of a global health agreement that will halt the harms caused by plastics and their hazardous chemical ingredients throughout their lifecycle, including waste management processes, on peoples and the ecosystems.

“As the INC1 gets underway, we urge governments to produce a negotiations roadmap that will result in the adoption of a strong treaty, which will ban toxic chemicals in plastics, put a cap on the unrestrained production of plastics and their additives, disallow the burning of plastic wastes in cement kilns and incinerators, including waste-to-energy facilities, and bar plastic waste exports in order to halt toxic pollution and environmental injustice,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  “The plastics treaty must uphold the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”

At its General Assembly held last month, the EcoWaste Coalition adopted a resolution to “advocate for a strong treaty with binding controls and targets addressing the threats from plastics to public health, the environment, the oceans and the climate throughout their lifecycle.”

Among the key strategies to address such threats, as mentioned in the said resolution, are “reducing plastic production, phasing out toxic chemical additives in plastics, banning the recycling of plastics with hazardous chemicals into the economy, promoting sustainable materials for a non-toxic circular society, and advancing Zero Waste strategies and other non-incineration solutions to the planetary plastic pollution crisis.”

To reinforce its call for a strong treaty towards a genuinely circular and toxics-free future, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the report “An Introduction to Plastics and Toxic Chemicals: How Plastics Harm Human Health and the Environment and Poison the Circular Economy.”

Published by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), the report provides an overview of the health harms from plastics, noting that more than 2,400 substances used in plastics are known as chemicals of concern, with links to cancer, infertility, impaired intellectual functioning, delays in physical development, and other health conditions.  It also offers the latest science on endocrine disrupting chemicals, persistent organic chemicals, and other chemicals that pose health threats and are commonly used in plastics.

The report also exposes the false promises of plastic waste disposal schemes and showing the myth of plastics recycling, including outlining the decades-long failures of chemical and “advanced” recycling, the health and environmental risks from plastic waste fuels, and demonstrating that recycling simply moves chemicals in plastics into new products, exposing more people to toxic chemicals and poisoning the circular economy.

The EcoWaste Coalition group further expressed its support to the recommendations put forward by the Global Alliance on Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), particularly on the need for the treaty to “establish a framework to ban plastic polymers, additives, products and waste management processes that harm human or environmental health including those that worsen toxic pollution or circulate toxics in the economy, threaten water security, or deepen environmental injustice (e.g., “waste-to-energy” incineration, pyrolysis and gasification, plastic waste exports).”

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