On 2 March 2022, 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution at the fifth session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly to develop a draft global agreement on plastic pollution by the end of 2024. Significantly, the resolution covers the full lifecycle of plastic including its production, design and disposal. Inger Andersen, Executor Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, described the resolution as a ‘triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics’ and as the ‘most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord’ (UNEP Press Release).

The resolution was passed despite lobbying by major chemical industry groups to limit the text of the resolution to plastic waste. It is noteworthy, however, that major consumer goods groups that use plastic packaging supported a whole lifecycle approach that will help drive innovation and promote a circular economy for plastics.

The United Nations treaty, once completed, will set important standards for countries and companies to tackle the challenges of plastic use and pollution, whether or not the treaty is adopted into local laws.