Towards a world without plastic pollution
Minister Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France
Christophe Béchu Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion of France
I would like to thank the French government for hosting this high-level event.
We are meeting ahead of the second round of negotiations on the global deal to end plastic pollution. These negotiations are crucial because we will set the mandate and the path to an agreement, and that is very important. Because the agreement is of course crucial to ending plastic pollution, which harms nature, the oceans, human health and the climate.
Today, leadership talks focus on circular economy and waste management. That is of course important. But I also want to emphasize that the road to a pollution-free world starts with reducing the scale of the problem. Because one thing is clear: we cannot get out of this mess by recycling. Current recycling and waste management infrastructure cannot handle the amount of plastic that the linear economy carelessly and unnecessarily emits every day. It’ll never get by unless there’s less plastic coming out of the system.
So what do we want to see from this agreement? The agreement needs to take a comprehensive lifecycle approach that reduces the size of the problem. It’s about redesign. Redesign products so they don’t contain plastic or need to be shipped in plastic. Why ship water around? Why not ship solids or dry powders? Entrust our engineers with redesigning the products we wrap in plastic. Redesign packaging to eliminate or use less plastic. Redesign systems and products so that the right to repair, reuse, refill and/or recyclability can be realized. But remember, it’s about recycling everything, not just the 9 percent we use now. Redesign rules and incentives. It is absurd that what we extract from the belly of the earth, which is new raw polymer, is cheaper than recycled polymer. That needs to change. Reshape the broader system for justice – so that informal garbage collectors, the so-called Green Force in Sri Lanka, and other vulnerable communities are not left behind, but have decent jobs and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, now by the UN General Assembly anchored.
If you get the redesign right, we’ll reduce the overall plastic usage. If you get the redesign right, our products are deliquified and can come with non-plastic materials. With the right redesign, we create markets for repaired, refilled and reusable products. When you approach redesign the right way, recycled polymer is a valuable material that is treasured and treasured by businesses, homes and governments. If we get the redesign right, we’ll massively increase recycling.
If you get the redesign right, we produce sustainable and safe plastic alternatives.
If you get the redesign done right, waste management becomes, well, manageable with new investments.
If you get the redesign right, a new economy will emerge. Jobs are created. Opportunities are created. A clean and profitable economy where the interests of local communities, indigenous people and informal waste workers are protected and no one is left behind.
In a recent editorial by Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever stated, and I quote, “As you would expect, some companies are heavily lobbying to undermine the talks, led by petrochemicals and fossil fuels.” It’s no secret that many people, those dealing with fossil fuels see the fast-growing plastics sector as a lifeboat as our societies make greater use of renewable energy.” I said yesterday, don’t jump into that lifeboat. Because it will capsize. Instead, steer your boat towards solutions aimed at crystal clear waters and sandy beaches without plastic waste. And of course we have to make sure that we don’t do without old plastic, which is still washed up on many coasts decades after the plastic tap was closed.
That’s why I say to everyone: be part of this change, because the change is coming. Everyone – from all industries and walks of life – needs to show ambition, determination and innovation. We got into this mess. Now we have the chance to embark on the solution. Start today.
So I ask you: What are you going to commit to today? Thank you very much.