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Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

INC Fact Sheet Designing Products and Systems for Safe and Sustainable Reuse

(Publications under review and may be updated prior to 30 September)

Reuse is a key component of the 3Rs + return (reduce, reuse and recycle) approach to reducing pollution but it has not yet been fully embraced in policy despite its reference in the Sustainable Development Goals. While it may appear as a new concept, before the advent of single-use plastics (SUP) traditional practices of reuse and refill were commonplace and are still a part of everyday life around the world. More recently, governments have recognised the impact of SUP products and imposed bans on specific items. However, this often leads to problematic alternatives and substitutes and perpetuates the take, make, dispose mentality. In reality, reuse comes higher up the waste hierarchy and deserves greater consideration by policymakers.

Comparing SUP and reusable packaging, reusable packaging is the more environmentally friendly option. The underlying logic is as simple as it is compelling: by using and reusing an item many times before it ends up as waste, the environmental costs, the amount of waste generated and the resources needed to produce and dispose of it can be divided by the number of uses. There are also significant opportunities for job creation. Deposit systems (not just specific to reuse) can create 11-38 times more job opportunities than other waste management alternatives. In this context the negotiations towards an International Legally Binding Instrument to End Plastic Pollution (ILBI) have included discussions on reuse as a pathway to reduce pollution. Reuse, if designed and defined correctly in the ILBI, has the potential to increase safe circularity and support the overall objective of ending plastic pollution.

Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

INC Technical Note: World Trade Organization Rules and Key Elements for Consideration in the Context of a Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

Ahead of the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (plastics treaty), there are clear indications that trade restrictions1 and requirements are to be part of the discussions, as indicated by many pre-INC2 State submissions, including non-party trade provisions (see CIEL’s brief on non-party trade provisions).2

Concurrently, some States have raised the question of compatibility between possible provisions of the future plastics treaty and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.3 Since the inception of the WTO, a number of principles have become part of the core of international trade law under its jurisdiction. Critical elements of these rules include: (i) the non-discrimination principle;4 (ii) the most-favored-nation (MFN) principle5 and (iii) the national treatment principle.6 However, those principles do not preclude or impede States from prohibiting, restricting, or conditioning trade within the plastics treaty. Many multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) have included trade and traderelated provisions,7 including trade restrictions, and none have triggered WTO disputes.8 In fact, MEAs that contain trade provisions harmonize the approach to an environmental problem, avoiding legal fragmentation and plausible WTO challenges.

This brief examines the question of consistency or compatibility of the incoming plastics treaty with WTO rules, with the understanding that the treaty negotiation process is still very much ongoing. It also provides key recommendations for future framing of the plastic treaty’s terms to address the essential interlinkages between plastic pollution and international trade in advance of INC-2.

Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

INC Technical Note: Non-Party Trade Provisions in Multilateral Environmental Agreements-Key Elements for Consideration in the Context of a Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) aim to address environmental issues of global concern by creating uniform and streamlined approaches and rules that apply to all parties. Treaties serve as agreements between two (or more) States that enter into an agreement, thus creating specific obligations and rights for those parties. It is generally recognized that a treaty does not create either obligations or rights for a third, non-party State without its consent.

Obligations only arise for a third State if that State expressly accepts that obligation in writing.1 The more States become party to any specific agreement, the greater the chances for the agreement to become effective. Conversely, States that are not party to an agreement can also create specific challenges for its effectiveness. Therefore, it is common for treaties, including MEAs, to include so-called non-party provisions. These provisions typically set out how a party to a treaty should interact with ‘non-party’ States, promote the ratification of the agreement and deal with the specific challenges presented by non-parties. While all provisions aim to support the efficacy of a treaty, non-party provisions take various forms. The most commonly used are provisions that:

● Require parties to encourage non-parties to become parties; and

● Impose trade restrictions on parties in their dealing with non-parties, unless those non-parties conform to the requirements of the relevant treaty (non-party trade provisions).

Plastic pollution is an issue of global concern and every step along the life cycle of plastics entails global supply chains. The future treaty to end plastic pollution will thus require non-party provisions to be truly effective. It should incentivize ratification by the greatest number of countries possible, create a level playing field, and avoid providing benefits for non-parties (also referred to as ‘free-riders’). Because of global supply chains, developing nonparty provisions, specifically around trade issues, is paramount.

This brief provides an introduction to trade provisions involving non-parties. The Annex includes specific examples from other MEAs.

Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

INC Policy Brief: Trade Provisions in Multilateral Environmental Agreements-Key Elements for Consideration in the Context of a Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

Plastics trade is an essential component of discussions to develop an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, for three reasons:

1. Plastic feedstocks, polymers, additives, plastic pellets, plastic products, and waste are largely traded internationally1 and the liberalization2 of trade in plastics and their feedstocks supports the rise in production and consumption of plastics, accelerating the plastic crisis;

2. Trade in plastics acts as a conveyor belt for the spread of products, packing and packaging responsible for plastic pollution, including micro- and nanoplastics around the world;3 and

3. Trade in plastics products and products packaged in plastic adds to the waste management burden that importing countries face.

Additionally, Global trade in plastic is immense. Plastics imports and exports in “primary, intermediate and final forms of plastics [represent] up to more than US$1 trillion in 2018 or 5% of the total value of global trade.”4 In 2020, there were 369 million tons of plastics traded - $1,2 trillion in value -, a significant increase from the previous years (UNCTAD, 2022d).

UNEP also identified trade as one of the key elements to address (through the full life cycle of plastics) in its Plastics Science document published in preparation of the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC1) (UNEP/PP/INC.1/7).5 As measures for achieving the strategic goals for systems change, UNEP proposed among others to include (i) bans of specific final goods as well as problematic and unnecessary polymers and additives; as well as restrictions and phase out of harmful substances, (ii) taxes/tariffs related to upstream, and midstream activities and products; (iii) removal of fossil fuel subsidies; and (iv) customs duties.6

Given this importance, and to ensure that the goal of ending plastic pollution is successfully achieved, it will be essential (i) to recognize the contribution and role of trade in plastic pollution and (ii) ensure that the plastics treaty includes trade-related measures as core obligations.7

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