The risks of micrcoplastics to marine, environment and human health should be a major consideration for negotiators in Nairobi Kenya as they sift through the Zero Draft text and the Synthesis Report of an International Legally Binding Instrument to address plastic pollution.
The call comes from Nauru, on behalf of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS), as the three Contact Groups continue their work to address different sections of the Zero Draft at the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
First Secretary Permanent Mission of the Republic of Nauru to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva, Ms Joanie Hartman, presented a PSIDS statement on Problematic and avoidable plastic products, including short-lived and single-use plastic products and intentionally added microplastics.
She said that microplastics are an issue of global concern as they are persistent, accumulate in marine environments, and are particularly mobile in the global environment through air and marine currents, having impacts well beyond their point source of emission.
“Microplastics resulting from the breakdown of plastic products can enter the food chain, potentially impacting human health,” she said. “For PSIDS, it is particularly important that we prohibit the production, sale, use, distribution, import, or export of plastics and plastic products containing intentionally added microplastics in order to overcome the challenges in the implementation and monitoring of intentional microplastics, and create a level-playing field through stronger transparency.”
According to Hartman, prohibiting the production and use of intentionally added microplastics, will contribute to global efforts to reduce the long-term health and environmental impacts of plastic pollution.
Scientists have been studying microplastics, defined as particles measuring less than five millimeters (a fifth of an inch) across, for years. According to an article titled “Microplastics are in our bodies. How much do they harm us?” published in the National Geographic Magazine, as microplastics began turning up in the guts of fish and shellfish a few years ago, the concern was focused on the safety of seafood. The article said shellfish were a particular worry, because in their case, unlike fish, we eat the entire animal—stomach, microplastics and all.
In 2017, Belgian scientists announced that seafood lovers could consume up to 11,000 plastic particles a year by eating mussels, a favorite dish in that country.
For Pacific countries, given the heavy reliance on fish as a daily food source, PSIDS advocating for a treaty to end plastic pollution are steadfast on making sure the dangers are highlighted and considered during the negotiations.
“If the Instrument is to have any chance of succeeding to eliminate plastic pollution, the reduction in production, sale, and distribution is required,” said Hartman.
“Our position is aligned with the waste hierarchy principle, reinforcing the priority of reduction, waste prevention and reuse, rather than focusing on just recycling and waste management alone. We note several definitions are required, specifically, ‘problematic products’, ‘avoidable products’, ‘short-lived and single-use plastic products’.
“Annex B will include vital information for the operation and implementation of the item as we recommend intersessional work with appropriately qualified input to create an initial criteria list for consideration. In the interim, an initial list of criteria and lists for products, could be developed with plastic products already identified by numerous jurisdictions for early action, so populating an initial list should not be challenging.”
The Contact Groups at the INC-3 process provides a platform for states and stakeholders to candidly discuss their desired outcomes, preferences, and redlines for a treaty. Discussions in this setting offer a glimpse of possible final outcomes: a window into what countries deem important to their constituents.
The third Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Nairobi Kenya from 13 – 19 November 2023.
The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.
They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.
This story was originally published at SPREP on 17 November 2023, reposted via PACNEWS.