Nairobi, Kenya– The global #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, together with dozens of climate groups, youth, civic society, and allies, marched through Nairobi on November 11, 2023 ahead of the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) tasked with developing an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution.
Demonstrators at the “#BreakFree FromPlasticMovement March” walked from the National Museums of Kenya to the City Park, holding banners and amplifying calls for a drastic reduction in plastic production and an end to plastic pollution through a strong global plastics treaty.
"The plastic crisis hasn't just suddenly appeared out of thin air—for decades, it has been consciously orchestrated by the fossil fuel industry and multinational corporations who profit from the existence of this crisis,” said Niven Reddy, #BreakFreeFromPlastic Africa Coordinator. “As eyes are now on Nairobi for the next step in the plastics treaty journey, young people and allies from around the world are coming together to call out the unjust practices of waste colonialism that is consuming our communities in the global south, while calling on policymakers to tackle this issue at its source.”
Current levels and projected growth of plastic polymer production threaten the world’s ability to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celcius as set by the Paris Agreement. Most carbon emissions from plastics are from production processes and extraction of fossil fuels used in 99% of plastics, thus exacerbating the climate crisis. Any potential solutions to address plastic pollution will be ineffective without reduction targets and measures covering the entire life cycle of plastics—including fossil fuel extraction and plastic production—as mandated by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) Resolution 5/14.
“If we want to solve this crisis, we need to stop trying to find a cure. Instead, we need to stop producing the problem. We need to reduce plastic production now,” Reddy added.
The global plastics treaty presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for world leaders to cure the world of its plastics addiction by addressing the root of the problem by drastically reducing global plastic production.
Along with the march, the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement also presented a “Manifesto for a World Free From Plastic Pollution” signed by hundreds of organizations worldwide. The manifesto outlined the multitude of impacts of continued plastic production—climate change, biodiversity loss, human health harms, human rights violations etc.— and stressed the need for a treaty that would significantly reduce plastic production and scale reuse systems in a shift away from single-use plastics.
“Once produced, plastics are unmanageable. We have 70 years of evidence that the most aggressive waste management will not stem the tide of plastic pollution unless accompanied by significant cuts in production,” the manifesto stated. “Addressing the planetary crisis of plastics pollution must begin not with asking how much more pollution can be accommodated, but rather asking what reduction measures are needed to reverse the crisis and cut back on plastic’s global toxicity debt, harm to biodiversity, human health and its significant contribution to the climate crisis.”
World leaders will gather at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Headquarters in Nairobi for INC-3 on November 13-19. Climate advocates expect to end the INC-3 with an agreement on a mandate for a first draft of the instrument for the INC-4 negotiations in April 2024.
The Break Free From Plastic Movement March was led by the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement in partnership with Greenpeace Africa, Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network, Fridays for Future Kenya, Ubunifu Hub, Zero Waste Durban, Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD), Kenya National Waste Pickers Welfare Association, and supported by Wahenga Youth Group, Laudato Si' Movement Africa, and Ocean Uprise, Green Africa Youth Organization, End Plastic Pollution Uganda.
Tiara Samson, Break Free From Plastic Movement Building Associate, said:
"This current generation of young people are aware of the destruction that plastic is leaving for them — from pollution, health impacts, to climate change. They are even more aware of who is responsible for the unfettered production of plastic and the people who have been allowing it to happen for decades. We are demanding that policymakers finally confront the very problem at the source. If left unaddressed, the current surge in the production of plastic will continue, and this will drown out other potential solutions that need to be focused on in the treaty. We need ambitious targets for reducing plastic production NOW."
John Chweya, Kenya National Waste Pickers Welfare Association lead, said:
“Kenya is home to almost 50,000 waste pickers. Welcoming the third negotiation committee for the global plastics treaty on our land needs to go hand in hand with the recognition of the role of our community in fighting plastic pollution. This process will only be successful if toxic chemicals and polymers that are harming our health are eliminated, and the system rethought to center traditional and people-led solutions.”
Jacob Johnson Attakpah, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) Project Coordinator, said:
“The current levels of plastic production, especially of single-use plastics, are unsustainable and out of control. We need to cap plastic production levels globally and stop the export of plastic and plastic waste to the global south. The replacement for plastics is reuse systems and not false solutions like incineration.”
Kevin Lunzalu, Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network (KYBN) Co-founder, said:
“The plastic crisis is an intergenerational crisis, which must be addressed through inclusive, rights-based, and justice-focused frameworks.”
Hellen Kahaso Dena, Greenpeace Africa (GPAf) Pan-African Plastics Project Project Lead, said:
“We demand a Global Plastics Treaty that will cut plastic production by at least 75% by 2040 to ensure that we are staying below 1.5° C, and ultimately end the age of plastic. The treaty must be rooted in justice, human rights and fairness; one that will ensure equitable transition for workers and the health of the most affected communities. World leaders need to take action and prove that they are on the side of the people and the planet.”
About Break Free From Plastic – #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,000 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 shared 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
Note to the Editor:
- A press kit with multimedia materials is accessible at bit.ly/BFFPmarchpresskit; photos/videos will be available through the same link by 1:00 p.m. EAT (UTC+3)
- Quotes from march participants and allies are available here.
- Members of the media who will cover INC-3 may also refer to the #BreakFreeFromPlastic Press Kit here specific to INC-3.
- Upcoming press event you may attend:
- Global South Media Briefing
- 14 November 2023, 4PM Kenya
- Comfort Gardens Hotel, Township, United Nations Cres, Nairobi, Kenya
- Live streamed via Facebook @GAIA Asia Pacific @GAIA Africa @GAIALAC
- Click here to join Zoom
Follow #BreakFreeFromPlastic on Twitter for live updates during the INC-3