Break Free From Plastics Petition Delivery in Washington D.C. © Tim Aubry / Greenpeace
Staff from the Center for International Environmental Law with messages before the petition delivery. Environmental advocates with the #breakfreefromplastic movement met with a senior State Department official, to deliver 67,482 signatures calling for the United States to support a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty covering measures along the entire life cycle of plastic at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), Plastics State Department Petition Delivery. © Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Plastic Free July is well underway and with it always comes a breath of new life into the sails of the plastic-free, zero waste movement. As usual, the news and social media channels are abuzz with package-free tips, plastic reduction policy developments and companies promoting plastic-free initiatives. There is always a feeling of hope that together we can make #PlasticFreeJuly stick to secure our plastic-free future, and this year we have a new north star that could help make that a reality — the creation of a Global Plastics Treaty. 

If you didn’t yet hear the news, global governments agreed a mandate to negotiate a new treaty under the UN starting at the end of November. The treaty will cover the full life cycle of plastic, be legally binding and, if all goes as planned, finally begin a path out of the throwaway plastic era. We need a treaty that is truly game-changing, just and holistic, and we need it yesterday but we’ll settle for the relatively quick timeline by UN treaty standards — 2024. 

To get a strong treaty, we need to grow our powerful movement calling for change. We know people around the world want out of our plastic cage, and want better for devastatingly impacted communities, ecosystems, and wildlife. If you haven’t already signed or shared our petition, now is the perfect time to join us. Plastic Free July has already empowered more people to take action. More than 8,500 and counting have signed the petition so far!

Action in support of a Global Plastics Treaty at the Ngong Hills in Nairobi, Kenya. © Paul Basweti / Greenpeace
Activists from Greenpeace Africa hold banners in support of a Global Plastics Treaty. These images were taken at the Ngong Hills in Nairobi, Kenya. © Paul Basweti / Greenpeace

So what will a treaty accomplish that we can’t do or see in our own lives, businesses or communities? It can tackle a global crisis with global collaboration and global objectives. 

Does that mean that the local or more specific work we’re doing is less important? Absolutely not; it’s all connected. For example, this month Greenpeace will continue to push the federal government to strengthen its zero plastic waste strategy to focus more on reduction and reuse to actually have a hope of meeting Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste by 2030 goal. A federal government that has stronger national policies and positions will be better equipped at the Global Plastic Treaty negotiations to help lead other countries to deliver a strong treaty outcome. 

This month Greenpeace will also be calling on the world’s biggest plastic polluters, and producers, to commit to join the reuse revolution and swap their single-use plastic packaging for reusable, refillable and package-free alternatives. In a twist on the traditional Coke vs. Pepsi challenge, we’re seeing who will go further in their reuse commitments and help drive industry-wide change through investment in reuse infrastructure and collaborations across sectors. Massive consumer goods companies, whether you love ‘em or you hate ‘em, have the power to support or hinder a strong treaty outcome. So we need them to know that their customers want them to be part of the global solution instead of fuelling the global plastic problem.

And later in Plastic Free July we’ll be showcasing some small businesses and initiatives that are leading the change we need supported, expanded and made accessible to everyone – reuse and refill centred practices. By showing how the reuse and refill revolution is already rolling out across Canada, we can highlight to government that a plastic-free future is possible, if they help cultivate it through local and global support.

We will be sharing more about the Global Plastics Treaty in the weeks and months to come, but for now, as you follow the stories, hilarious memes and cool content being shared, keep in mind that this is our moment to gather information, ideas and case studies to fill our toolboxes with everything we’ll need to demand government build a strong treaty that will finally turn off the plastic tap and create a healthier, plastic-free future for people and the planet.