A person in China sifting through a large pile of plastic waste

EIA expert paper makes the case for the sustainable production and use of polluting plastics

The global plastics pollution cannot be properly tackled without controlling plastic production.

To underline this and to make the case for more meaningful action, EIA’s Ocean team has now produced a clear, evidence-based policy vision for how sustainable production and consumption can truly be achieved at the global level.

The collectively produced paper “Achieving sustainable production and consumption of virgin plastic polymers has now been published in Frontiers in Marine Science, a prestigious and highly respected peer-reviewed journal whose articles are rigorously reviewed by other experts – meaning they can hold significant influence over environmental policymaking.

Plastic tap installation outside the UN by artist Von Wong

Turning off the plastics tap – an installation outside the UN Environment Assembly in March by artist Ben Von Wong (c) EIA

EIA Ocean Campaigner Tom Gammage said: “Unsustainable production and consumption of virgin – or ‘primary’ – plastics represents the single greatest threat to preventing plastic pollution.

“The negotiation mandate for a new global plastics treaty, agreed in March 2022 by 175 countries, notes the importance of addressing the full lifecycle of plastics to reduce plastic pollution and promote a circular economy for plastics.

“However, current discussions overlook essential ‘upstream’ measures which address virgin plastic production and consumption, focusing instead on ‘midstream’ and ‘downstream’ measures on product design and waste management.

“Failure to control plastics at the beginning of their lifecycles – at minimum once they come into existence as materials that pollute – threatens to undermine the global plastics treaty.”

Using lessons from the Montreal Protocol to tackle substances which damage the ozone layer – widely considered to be the world’s most successful international environmental agreement – EIA’s new paper is the first to present a global upstream regulatory framework for plastics.

EIA works at the very forefront of environmental crime, enforcement and policymaking. This means that, while we sit at the very vanguard of knowledge, it is often challenging to find the time and impetus to go through the exceptionally rigorous submission, selection and peer-review process.

Gammage added: “Once published, these pieces are tremendous milestones in global policy debates and will continue to draw attention and inspire insight throughout the negotiations and beyond.

“In the lead-up to treaty negotiations, this is a critical thought piece to inform decision-makers on what global measures on plastic production could look like and why they are so urgently needed.”