26 November 2022, Punta del Este, Uruguay - A United Nations Environment Programme-organized Multi-Stakeholder Forum on plastics concluded today, offering recommendations to the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting on the Global Plastics Treaty. However, civil society groups, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders have pointed with concern to the problematic presence of those companies responsible for plastic pollution and hidden industry influence at the forum.
As a result, Break Free From Plastic members are reacting to the Multi-Stakeholder Forum:
Soledad Mella, Communications Secretary at Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile, and President at ANARCH (Chile), said:
“On behalf of the more than 20,000 waste pickers we represent, the equitable participation of civil society is critical to developing a treaty that addresses the human impact of plastic pollution. People on the frontline, such as waste pickers, are essential to identifying real solutions to this crisis, and it is critical that their participation is not symbolic. We need a participatory and accessible process where those most affected can access translation and interpretation, equitable participation in person, fewer communication gaps and have the opportunity to help shape the multi-stakeholder participation agenda so that this process is truly binding and not what we are seeing today.”
Kabir Arora, Asian Outreach Coordinator at International Alliance of Wastepickers (India), said:
“Equitable civil society engagement, including representation of waste pickers and other workers in the plastic value chain, is key in developing a treaty that addresses the human impact of plastic pollution. Those at the frontlines of plastic production, recycling and disposal are essential in identifying real solutions to this crisis, and it is critical that their participation is not tokenized. We need a meaningful and accessible process where those most impacted can access translation and interpretation, have equitable access to in-person participation, and have the opportunity to help shape the agenda for future multistakeholder forums.”
Frankie Orona, Executive Director at Society of Native Nations (USA), said:
“Indigenous people, original people of the lands, and communities of color must have an equitable voice and a seat in today’s discussions on how to deal with the negative impacts of “Plastics” in the Petrochemical industry. Inequality has existed in the UN for too long, and change needs to happen now if we truly want to ensure a healthy, suitable transition for the next generation. We are tired of having our communities deemed a sacrifice zone and having people make decisions for communities they never visit or know how to understand the hardship and suffering in indigenous and communities of color. The petrochemical plastic industry is killing our people, land, air and water. Our voices need to be heard before it’s too late for all of us.”
Christina Dixon, Ocean Campaign Leader at Environmental Investigation Agency (UK), said:
“Allowing the very companies that are driving the harms caused by plastic pollution to have an equal seat at the table sets a concerning precedent for the negotiations to come. We cannot allow plastic producers to take control of this process while vulnerable communities struggle with equitable access and having their voices heard in these spaces. We’ve seen yet again challenges with access for this meeting while those companies bankrolling the plastics crisis are able to show up in force. We need to learn from other environmental processes where industry have been able to distract and derail the agenda while continuing business as usual. For the Global Plastics Treaty to be effective, we need meaningful engagement of impacted communities, rather than costly side-shows designed to restrict participation away from substance.”
Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director at Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives (USA), said:
“Greta Thunberg recently criticized the overwhelming presence of the fossil fuel industry at the climate talks: ‘If you are trying to solve malaria, you don’t give mosquitoes a seat at the table.’ The same can be said for the plastics treaty negotiations, now underway in Uruguay. The week’s first event, the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, is aimed at finding common ground between environmental justice groups, waste pickers, public health professionals, environmentalists, and the very companies that are the source of the problem: the petrochemical industry. That is a recipe for failure. Instead, the treaty process should follow the precedent of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which excluded the tobacco industry from its negotiations. The plastics/petrochemical industry is not part of the solution, it is the problem.”
Jane Patton, Campaign Manager for Plastics & Petrochemicals at Center for International Environmental Law (USA and Switzerland), said:
“The reaction we are seeing from expert civil society representatives is a reflection of our broader concerns about industry influence over governments negotiating a new legally binding treaty to address the plastics pollution crisis. The perpetrators of pollution from plastics should not be allowed to manipulate these negotiations in their favor, so these processes must be specifically protected from fossil fuels and chemicals companies and their NGO front groups.”
Christopher Chin, Executive Director at The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE) (US) said:
"Proverbs exist in nearly every culture to address the absurdity of unmitigated conflict of interest. With the very industry creating plastic and plastic pollution weighing in so strongly regarding the discussion of possible solutions, the self-serving interest is painfully obvious. In order to consider, develop, explore, and begin deploying truly effective and encompassing solutions, the proverbial fox must be removed from the henhouse, and we must have industry and industry-sponsored entities excluded from the process."
- Cate Bonacini, Communications Manager, Center for International Environmental Law, email@example.com, +1-202-742-5847
- Caro Gonzalez, Break Free From Plastic Global Comms Lead, Caro@breakfreefromplastic.org +1-646-991-1013
About BFFP — #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.