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UNEA Takes Big Step Toward Global Plastics Treaty

U.S. Can Set Tone by Passing 5 Actions

United Nations Building  with Flags

I love sports. Especially sports that focus on a ball.
Ball games force us to pay attention to one central element. Anytime we lose focus on the ball, we lose. It’s true in our relationships, our work, and our personal lives. Lose focus, lose the game.
Well, the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA 5.2) just threw the first pitch at its meeting in Nairobi, a conference whose end game is keeping plastics out of our environment.
For the first time the international community has agreed on a framework to develop a legally binding treaty to end plastics in our environment. That’s great news. America’s plastic makers welcome the resolution because it will accelerate a circular economy in which plastics are reused instead of discarded. It’s ambitious – winning will mean the end of plastics in our environment. But we believe this is a game we all can win.

The resolution builds on our goal here in the U.S. to recycle, reuse, or recover 100% of plastic packaging by 2040. The U.S. can further set the tone for negotiations by passing 5 Actions for Sustainable Change, five simple steps Congress can take to accelerate a circular economy for plastics through a comprehensive, national strategy. Our 5 Actions call for:

5 Actions for Sustainable Change
  • use of 30% recycled plastics in plastic packaging in the U.S. by 2030;
  • accelerating advanced technologies to recycle more of the 90% of plastics that don’t get recycled;
  • national recycling standards to collect more materials;
  • use of scientific life cycle analyses to compare the environmental footprint of materials; and
  • a mechanism to finance a modern recycling infrastructure.

And as nations deliberate over a global agreement, it’s critical to recognize the contributions of plastics to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Plastics contribute directly to multiple SDGs, most notably on climate action, affordable/clean energy, and water/sanitation. Think electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, water delivery, energy efficient insulation – all rely on plastics to succeed.
Frankly, the global community cannot realistically meet its climate commitments without the help of plastics.

While negotiations on a global plastics treaty have been a long time coming, these are the early innings. We urge all governments involved to focus on negotiating a treaty that leads to circular solutions that work, beginning with universal access to waste management and recycling. (Our 5 Principles for ending plastics in the environment globally provide a reasonable approach.)

We can retain the societal benefits of plastics and keep them out of our environment. That’s the end game.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

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About the Author

As Vice President of ACC’s Plastics Division, Joshua oversees strategic programs to advance a science-based policy agenda, national outreach, and sustainability initiatives on behalf of America’s leading plastics makers. He encourages better understanding of plastics’ advantages in key markets, such as automotive, building and construction, and packaging, and innovations that are helping to address some of our world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Joshua also leads industry initiatives and fosters multi-stakeholder dialogue around helping to end plastic waste by creating a more circular economy.

He previously led public affairs at the American Beverage Association (ABA), where he oversaw the launch of a new plastics sustainability initiative and helped advance community-based recycling projects.

Prior to joining ABA, Joshua served as a managing director at Marathon Strategies and senior vice president at DDC Public Affairs. In both capacities, Joshua directed strategy and implementation of multi-channel issue advocacy and public affairs campaigns on behalf of Fortune 100 companies and leading trade associations. In 2018, Joshua led the defeat of the Border Adjustment Tax on behalf of the retail industry, which was recognized as PR Week’s 2018 global crisis campaign of the year.

He began his career working on Capitol Hill for former U.S. Representative Heather Wilson and as the National Coalitions Director for U.S. Senator Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Joshua has a Master of Arts in Government and Political Communications from The Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Texas Tech University.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council’s mission is to advocate for the people, policy, and products of chemistry that make the United States the global leader in innovation and manufacturing. To achieve this, we: Champion science-based policy solutions across all levels of government; Drive continuous performance improvement to protect employees and communities through Responsible Care®; Foster the development of sustainability practices throughout ACC member companies; and Communicate authentically with communities about challenges and solutions for a safer, healthier and more sustainable way of life. Our vision is a world made better by chemistry, where people live happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives, safely and sustainably—for generations to come.

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