FROM NOVEMBER 28-DECEMBER 2

Unep convenes meeting to address plastic pollution

Forum aims to facilitate the exchange of information and gather perspectives from different stakeholders across the plastic life cycle.

In Summary

• Unep said in a statement that the first session of the meeting will be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from November 28 to December 2.

• Unep said parties aim to have a final global agreement by the end of 2024.

Plastic littered along the shores of the ocean
Plastic littered along the shores of the ocean
Image: COURTESY

A bid to seek a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution has started in earnest after Unep announced it will convene the first session of an intergovernmental negotiating committee.

The team will help in midwifing the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

Unep said in a statement that the first session of the meeting will be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from November 28 to December 2.

“More than 2,000 participants have registered for the meeting, including almost 900 representatives from 157 member states, and more than 780 people from 370 major groups and stakeholders,” Unep said.

On March 2, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution 5/14, entitled “End plastic pollution: towards an international legally binding instrument”.

Unep said parties aim to have a final global agreement by the end of 2024.

The first session will cover a number of topics ranging from scope and objectives of the future agreement to its structure and key elements.

A multi-stakeholder forum will take place on November 26 in Punta del Este. 

Unep said the forum aims to facilitate the exchange of information and gather perspectives from different stakeholders across the plastic life cycle.

On February 27, 2017, the Environment ministry banned the use of plastic carrier bags through a gazette notice.

The ban came into effect in August of that year.

Possession of plastics attracts a fine of between Sh2 million and Sh4 million, or a jail term of between one and two years, or both.

Before 2017, about 100 million plastic bags were used in Kenyan supermarkets every year, with severe consequences to the environment.

The National Environment Management Authority estimates that the success rate of the ban to be at more than 90 per cent.

Despite the ban, however, plastic bags are still being smuggled into the country.

It is suspected that the plastics come from Tanzania, Somalia and Uganda.

The authority has been facing challenges in Garissa, Mandera, Moyale, Busia, Taita Taveta, Namanga and other border posts.

On June 5, 2019, Kenya banned single-use plastics on beaches, national parks, forests and conservation areas.

The ban prohibits visitors from carrying single-use plastic water bottles, disposable cups, plates, cutlery and straws into national parks, forests, beaches and conservation areas.

In October last year, Unep warned that the amount of plastic in the oceans has grown sharply in recent years and is projected to more than double by 2030.

The report, 'From Pollution to Solution', followed a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution.

It found that there is a growing threat in all ecosystems from source to sea.

“Despite current initiatives and efforts, the amount of plastic in the oceans has been estimated to be around 75-199 million tonnes,” the report says.

Scientists have warned that there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless people stop using single-use plastic items.

The report warned that plastic pollution leakage into aquatic ecosystems is set to have dire consequences for human health, the global economy, biodiversity and the climate.

“The human body is similarly vulnerable on multiple fronts to plastic pollution in water sources, which could cause hormonal changes, developmental disorders, reproductive abnormalities and cancer,” the report warns.

Plastics are ingested through seafood, drinks, and even common salt. They penetrate the skin and are inhaled when suspended in the air.

The report warns that plastic emissions into aquatic ecosystems are projected to nearly triple by 2040 without meaningful action.

Unep has however praised efforts aimed at ending marine plastic pollution.

It said more and more countries are joining the Clean Seas campaign to fight marine litter and plastic pollution.

“More than 60 countries – both coastal and landlocked – have signed up to this global movement with ambitious pledges and commitments,” it said.

Unep said at least 11 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into water bodies every year.

This is the equivalent of one garbage truck being dumped every minute.

It is estimated that about five trillion macro and microplastic pieces are in the ocean, making up 60 to 90 per cent of marine debris.

Through the Clean Seas platform, Unep is connecting and rallying individuals, civil society groups, industries and governments to reduce marine litter.

Since its launch in 2017, the campaign has become a catalyst for change, transforming habits, practices, standards and policies around the globe.

Unep said many countries have pledged to reduce or eradicate single-use plastics from their societies through stronger legislation and regulation.

Others have committed to investing more in national recycling facilities and promoting action plans to prevent harm to the coastal and marine environment.

Kenya joined the campaign in December 2017.

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