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Conversation Looms for Global Agreement to End Plastic Waste

Photo by Joshua Woods on Unsplash

Negotiators and advocates from 170 countries met in Canada recently to further navigate a deal on a global treaty to end plastic waste. Negotiations and conversations surrounding this topic have been ongoing, however, there has yet to be an agreement on how countries should overcome plastic pollution on a global scale.

According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), an environmental justice group – “More than 50 countries now say they want an agreement to include targets for reducing plastic production” and while many countries have been willing to come to agreements, other industries such as oil and gas have been factors in why negotiation agreements haven’t happened sooner.

With countries like Russia, Saudia Arabia and the United States protecting these interests – a push for a global cap on plastic production has proved difficult in the wake of the treaty.

In a statement to NPR, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department noted that, “Downstream measures like recycling and waste management on their own won’t solve the problem of plastic pollution, and that the country is looking for ways to reduce demand for new plastic.”

So, how can America both reduce demand for new plastic becoming an alley for treaty participants and improve waste management without fully embracing waste management infrastructure?

The answer is unknown, but it is clear that a mutual agreement must be identified to have an impact on the environmental dilemmas happening around the world.

This agreement must meet not only the needs of public interest, but environmental concerns that have long been ignored due to consumerism. "Environmental considerations and sustainable development require precautionary measures that are usually not rewarded by the capitalist system" (Park, 2015; Sandberg et al., 2019) and therefore, it becomes an issue when reasoning with capitalist societies.

As one of the largest economies in the world, the United States is fueled by capitalism which in some cases present great opportunities but in respect to the treaty has presented a long list of issues holding the country back.

Finding a middle ground to honor the good that comes from being a capitalist society and taking a stand on issues that impact the global population is key. Here is where corporate entities can step in to ensure they are doing their best in re-framing manufacturing practices, paying attention to environmental concerns, and acting on information that support the eco-friendly purchasing habits of consumers.

U.S. corporations have a bigger role to play than most suspect. The influence corporations have on reform means that negotiations like plastic treaties and better recycling infrastructure can occur a lot faster than expected if they choose to act. Let’s continue to hold companies accountable to push for better recycling and plastic waste solutions by purchasing products in packaging designed for the circular economy.

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