INC Fact Sheet: Plastics Alternatives and Substitutes 101

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The Scientists' Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty
Regional project
Country project
Document type
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers
Many INC delegates indicated that the scope of the treaty should include plastics alternatives and substitutes. However, there are no internationally agreed definitions of plastics alternatives nor plastics substitutes. Sound definitions will support fully informed treaty negotiations. International agreements emphasize the need to promote the human health, environmental, economic, and social risks, costs, and implications of alternative substances (e.g., Art. 9 Stockholm Convention1; see also Art. 1 Convention). International legal instruments also note that when considering substitutes, the potential environmental benefits or penalties of substitute materials or activities (i.e., negative externalities) must be considered.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has developed the following plastics alternatives and substitutes definitions: Plastics Alternatives are plastics not made with conventional fossil-fuel based polymers(i.e., bioplastics).

Plastics Substitutes are all other non-plastic materials that may be used to replace synthetic fossil fuel-based polymers and bioplastics. Some examples are glass, leather, wood, silk, paper, cotton, wool, stone, ceramic, and aluminum
  • Plastics-Alternatives-and-Substitutes-101_formatted_Final.pdf