In the last week of April I will be in Ottawa, Canada attending the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC 4) towards a Global Plastics Treaty. This is the fourth in a series of five meetings where world leaders, country representatives and civil society organisations will gather to discuss a legally binding instrument to curb the plastic crisis.

Last November, the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC3) ended on a disappointing note as low-ambition countries derailed the treaty negotiations. At INC 4, negotiators now face a meeting where progress towards text-based negotiations is essential in order to meet the timeline set out in the UNEA resolution 5/14. 

I hope  to see fair and equitable representation throughout the negotiation and implementation process, including from communities disproportionately affected by the plastic pollution crisis and not just a few oil-producing countries thinking about lining their pockets with hefty profits.

Why are these negotiations important, you may ask. To answer this question let’s look at how bad the plastic pollution crisis is. Here are a few statistics to note:

  • Plastics are made with as many as  16,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and are known to cause cancer, nervous system issues, and hormonal disruptions.
  • A 2015 study found that workers in plastic recycling workshops face health risks from volatile organic compounds produced by recycling processes, with some workers facing an increased risk of cancer.
  • Plastic production has doubled from the year  2000-2019 reaching 460 million tonnes per year and if unchecked it  is set to triple by 2050.
  • Plastic directly harms each of the 8.1 billion people on this fragile planet.
  • 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels making plastic production one of the major drivers of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.


Plastic production and consumption has tremendously increased globally over the past decade reaching unsustainable levels necessitating the urgency for significant and collective efforts towards addressing the key drivers of plastic pollution. This can only be achieved if we look at the entire life cycle of plastics from extraction to production, use and disposal.

Plastic production is closely tied to the fossil fuel industry, primarily through the extraction and processing of petrochemicals. The energy-intensive process of converting petrochemicals into plastics contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. As global fossil fuel demand is projected to decline, the fossil fuel industry is eyeing plastics as a lifeline. As the demand for plastic continues to grow, so does the need for fossil fuels, thus increasing emissions and accelerating the climate emergency.

With all this in mind, there is an urgent need for the petrochemical and plastic industry to end the love affair with plastic production and use, and focus their effort in reducing plastic production and investing in refill and reuse models.  But more than that, support the call for a Global Plastics Treaty that will end this menace that has troubled mankind and the environment for decades.

World governments must also find a way forward without low-ambition countries and oil and gas producers dictating the terms of the negotiations. We need a strong treaty that will ensure a just transition to a low-carbon, zero-waste, reuse-based economy that centres justice and the interests of affected communities. 

A Plastic-free future is possible if world leaders resist the corporate capture by oil-producing countries and plastics proponents and take actions towards reducing plastic production.

We call upon African leaders to negotiate a treaty that significantly cuts plastic production by at least 75% by 2040  and show that they are on the side of the people, not corporate profit. This reduction is imperative to keep global warming within the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A plastics treaty that only focuses on recycling would be a major missed opportunity to create real lasting change. The plastic crisis faced by communities in Africa cannot be solved by waste management infrastructure only. Production regulations need to be prioritised or else we risk ending up with a waste management treaty which will be contrary to UNEA 5/14  resolution which seeks to end plastic pollution.

For the sake of our future, that of our children and the health of the planet, we can not afford to waste this once in a generation opportunity!

Authored by  Hellen Kahaso Dena