World vows to end pollution, but Paris Agreement-style action needed

For the first time at the UN Environment Assembly, yesterday world leaders signed resolutions to clean up our air, land and water.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes these unprecedented UN resolutions to end plastic pollution, but warns that binding targets and timetables are needed to deliver on their promises.

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.

The assembly put particular emphasis on plastic pollution and marine litter, urging governments to implement measures to avoid the use of throwaway plastic such as bottles and other packaging.

From Nairobi, Piotr Barczak of the European Environmental Bureau said:

“This is an important step forward to end plastic pollution. The topic is relatively new on the UN agenda, but the hope is that one day we’ll have a Paris Agreement to reduce the use of throwaway plastic, phase out unnecessary plastic items and boost reuse and recycling.”

The EEB encouraged governments to implement binding measures to transition to a circular economy, where waste is prevented and products reused or recycled, and to more sustainable production and consumption patterns, as already agreed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Barczak added:

“We need rules to make producers more responsible for the cost of plastic pollution, especially packaging, and to encourage the use of durable and recyclable solutions. We all need to do our bit to end plastic pollution, which threatens our lives, economy and society

At a side-event in Nairobi on Tuesday, European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said that he wants the upcoming EU Plastic Strategy to be an inspiration for economies around the world.


Facts and Figures

  • Eight million tonnes of plastic – bottles, packaging and other waste – are dumped into the ocean every year, destroying entire ecosystems and entering the human food chain (UNEP 2017)
  • If current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050 (UNEP 2017)
  • Throwaway plastic items that could easily be avoided or replaced with more durable solutions are responsible for half of the litter on European beaches (Sea at Risk 2017)
  • The UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. This year’s theme is pollution in all its forms.
  • The European Commission is expected to release its plastic strategy in January 2018. See leaked paper here.

The EEB is a member of the Rethink Plastic campaign in Europe.

For more information:

Mauro Anastasio, Communications Officer - Resource Efficiency, European Environmental Bureau