Day:

Thursday 22nd June 2023

Time:

9.00am - 2:40pm

Chair:

Professor Steve Fletcher - Director of the Global Plastics Policy Centre, University of Portsmouth, UK

Room:

1.74

Description: 

Following on from the landmark resolution reached at the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya last year to develop an international legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution, this session will focus on the progress and ambitions of the UN Treaty. What have we learnt from the process so far?  What are the challenges and how can these challenges be addressed?  What does a successful treaty look like? How can reuse systems help address plastic pollution? This session will include short talks and 2 roundtable discussions.

Themes:

  • Where are we after INC-2 (Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee session)?
  • How can we build a ‘just’ transition into the treaty?
  • Transparency and disclosure issues in policy development 
  • Reuse as an effective policy option 
  • Stakeholder perspectives

Agenda:

Introduction:

Professor Steve Fletcher

University of Portsmouth

Short Talks:

Jill Bartolotta 

Ohio Sea Grant and The Ohio State University

Partners in Plastic Pollution Prevention: Reducing Plastic Pollution through Public and Private Partnerships

Valérie Patreau

Polytechnique Montréal (QC, Canada)

Moving away from single-use plastics, public policies effectiveness and consumers’ perceptions

Steph Hill

University of Leicester

Sign the manifesto: Examining corporate advocacy efforts in the creation of a mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution

Dr Tony Walker

Dalhousie University

Government policy responses to curb plastic pollution pre- and post-COVID-19 pandemic

Panel Q&A

Keynote:

John Chweya

Kenyan National Waste Pickers

Leveraging global policy to ensure a just transition for waste pickers

Tea Break

Keynote:

Von Hernandez

Break Free from Plastic

 

Panel Discussion:

How can the global plastics treaty serve as a platform for system change?

Chair:

Steve Fletcher

Panellists:

  • Von Hernandez

Break Free from Plastic

  • Lesley Henderson

University of Strathclyde

  • Zoe Lenkiewicz 

Specialist in Global Waste Management

  • Rachel Karasik 

Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability 

University of Portsmouth

  • John Chweya 

Kenyan National Waste Pickers

Lunch

Short Talks:

Dr James Doherty

Plastic-i Limited

Plastic-i: Enabling solutions to marine plastic pollution with satellite imagery & AI

Lauren Weir

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)

Agriplastics and the UK Food Supply Chain: How addressing policy failings and market powers is the ultimate solution

  • Dr Noreen O'Meara

University of Surrey

  • Dr Tiago de Melo Cartaxo

University of Exeter

  • Professor Rosalind Malcolm

University of Surrey

Plastics pollution and youth communities: shaping ownership through adaptive legal tools

Panel Q&A

Tea Break

Panel Discussion:

Time is of the Essence – Negotiating a plastics treaty fit for purpose

Chair:

Chris Dixon

Environmental Investigation Agency

 

Panellists:

  • Esrat Karim

AMAL Foundation

  • Tony Walker

Dalhousie University

Von Hernandez

Break Free From Plastic

  • James Wakibia 

Environmental Activist and Photojournalist

 

Title: Partners in Plastic Pollution Prevention: Reducing Plastic Pollution through Public and Private Partnerships
Authors: Jill Bartolotta1,2, Sue Bixler1,2, Scott Hardy1,2, Sarah Orlando3
1. Ohio Sea Grant
2. The Ohio State University
3. Ohio Clean Marinas Program
Biography: Jill Bartolotta, Extension Educator for Ohio Sea Grant and The Ohio State University, works with municipalities, scientists, and the public to collaboratively manage Lake Erie and its resources through research, outreach and education, and partnership development. Her work focuses on the use of single-use plastics and barriers to reusable alternatives. She earned a dual Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife ecology and outdoor education with a minor in marine biology from the University of New Hampshire (UNH). She continued her studies at UNH by earning a Master of Science in Integrated Coastal Ecosystem Science, Policy, and Management.

As a changing climate brings drought conditions to the United States and other parts of the world, the Great Lakes region continues to have plentiful access to freshwater for drinking, tourism, industry, and agriculture purposes. However, the quality of the water, while safe, is slowly deteriorating because of mismanagement and increasing pollution. Plastic pollution is one such pollutant that is wreaking havoc on the region’s freshwater resources, especially the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system in the world. Plastic is the most prevalent trash material found in the Great Lakes with an estimated 22 million pounds of plastic entering the Great Lakes each year. Half of which enters Lake Erie alone. To combat this emerging pollutant, Ohio Sea Grant, The Ohio State University, and regional partners are working with businesses to establish and implement sustainable business practices. The overuse and misuse of plastics is prevalent in businesses who have little idea how to move away from the inexpensive and readily available plastic products they frequently use. By collaborating with businesses, we can identify the waste streams within various businesses and then identify strategies to move away from these linear waste streams and switch to a more circular approach or complete elimination. This presentation will focus on our work with grocery stores, restaurants, and marinas that are currently implementing plastic reduction strategies. In working with these businesses, we have been able to track customer response, analyze financial impacts, and develop best management and sustainability business practices. The lessons we have learned, the tools we have created, and the data analysis techniques we have used are easily adaptable to other areas. We are thrilled to share what we have already accomplished and how we can help spread our model of engagement and evaluation with others. 

Title: Moving away from single-use plastics, public policies effectiveness and consumers’ perceptions
Authors: Valérie Patreau1, Sophie Bernard1, Justin Leroux2
1. Department of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal (QC), Canada
2. Department of Applied Economics, HEC Montréal (QC), Canada
Biography: Valérie Patreau is a Ph.D. student at Polytechnique Montréal, in the Department of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering. She has a degree in engineering and worked for several years as a research professional in a university research center in life cycle assessment. Her doctoral work focuses on public policies to make the plastics industry sustainable.

Plastic pollution is increasingly documented in the scientific literature. Plastic is a light, strong, easy-to-handle and inexpensive material. The use of plastic has increased significantly in many sectors and specially to produce single-use disposable products and packaging in the food value chain, causing important end-of-life management issues.
These products and packaging end up in landfills, incinerated or exported to countries that do not always have the capacity to recycle them properly. In Canada, only 9% of plastic is recycled and 47% of plastic waste is packaging (Deloitte, 2019). Only improving waste management will not be enough, changes in consumption patterns and behaviors to limit waste at the source are needed (González-Fernández et al., 2021).

Public policies are part of the toolbox to better control plastic pollution, and more and more are put in place worldwide. Are they efficient? How are they perceived by the consumers? Comparing performance of the public policies and consumer’s perceptions can provide a valuable information to support changes in consumption behaviors and public policies.

The objective of the work carried out is to better understand the public policies that target the consumption of single-use plastic products, their effectiveness, and consumers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of these policies in Canada.

A scientific literature review of public policies and an evaluation of their efficiency based on a framework have been developed. In addition, an empirical consumer study documents consumers' perceptions of these public measures for the overall reduction of the amount of waste generated by households.
Results of a survey of Canadian consumers conducted in the winter of 2022 will be presented. It is part of a study that aims to assess the willingness of consumers to change their behavior and commit to a zero-waste lifestyle as well as the willingness of industrial and commercial actors to implement source reduction scenarios in Canada. The results of this study will contribute to a broader reflection on the levers and challenges of zero waste consumption and in particular the public measures and eco-taxation tools that can be put in place to make the plastic value chain more sustainable. 

Title: Sign the manifesto: Examining corporate advocacy efforts in the creation of a mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution
Authors: Steph Hill1
1. University of Leicester
Biography: Steph Hill is a lecturer in the Media, Communication, and Sociology Department at the University of Leicester. She received her PhD in Communication and Culture from Toronto Metropolitan University and York University in 2022. Her research examines the role of public relations and corporate social advocacy in regulatory processes online and in other transnational environments. When she is not researching communication, she spends a lot of time birdwatching and picking up garbage.

In 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) passed resolution 5/14, creating a mandate to negotiate a legally binding plastic pollution treaty. In the lead up to resolution 5/14, a group of prominent consumer goods brands, including major contributors to plastic litter globally, joined the Business Coalition for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution, led by the World Wildlife Fund and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Some commenters took the support of businesses for a global treaty as a sign that "stakeholders who have traditionally been on opposing sides of various environmental debates" (Ford, 2021) had found consensus on responding to plastic pollution. However, the public activity of the Business Coalition also raises critical questions about the role of business in the negotiation of a multilateral treaty. Research on corporate involvement in waste management regulation suggests that corporate interventions in policy processes shift responsibility to consumers, addressing littering and recycling rather than corporate responsibilities such as packaging design. Critical research also argues that public relations interests reframe and delay responses to environmental challenges (Aronczyk & Espinoza, 2021; Delmas & Montes-Sancho, 2010). This history invites scepticism of the role of the private sector in the negotiation of the plastic pollution treaty, particularly concerns about greenwashing and regulatory capture.

This research analyses documents from the UN ad hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter and microplastics (AHEG) and secretariat, the Business Coalition, and contemporary reporting from groups such as the Progress on Plastic Coalition and Earth Bulletin to investigate business support for a UN plastic pollution treaty and how that support affected the policy-making process at the UNEA between 2017 and 2022. The analysis draws from new institutionalism and epistemic community frameworks to create a snapshot of key actors, ideas, and interests in the period leading up to the passage of UNEA resolution 5/14. It identifies governance gaps as a key justification for private sector involvement in plastic pollution regulation and the creation of a global regulatory instrument along with shifts in industry opposition to global regulation. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for global regulation of plastic pollution.

Title: Government policy responses to curb plastic pollution pre- and post-COVID-19 pandemic
Authors: Tony R. Walker
Biography: Dr. Tony Walker is an Associate Professor at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University in Canada. Tony has studied impacts of plastic pollution for nearly 30 years. He helped participate in a Leaders and Experts Roundtable on Plastics and Marine Litter to help develop the Ocean Plastics Charter for Canada’s 2018 G7 presidency. He participated in the Canadian Science Symposium on Plastics to inform represented Canada at the G7 Science Meeting on Plastic Pollution in Paris, France. He has published extensively on policies to reduce impacts of plastic pollution and is Associate Editor for Marine Pollution Bulletin and Cambridge Prisms: Plastics.

Single-use plastics (SUPs) are major contributors to local and global plastic pollution. There has been a recent increase in studies examining policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution,particularly SUPs (e.g., plastic bags, microbeads, straws, plastic cutlery). Although early government policy responses targeted plastic bags, there has also been an increase in policies targeting other SUPs (e.g., microbeads, straws, plastic cutlery). Although there has been an increase in the number of national legislative strategies to address plastic pollution, these have also been accompanied by recent increasing non-legislative interventions to mitigate SUPs at individual and private-sector levels that complement or influence government legislative interventions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted plastic reduction policies at local and national levels and induced significant changes in plastic waste management, resulting in negative impacts on the environment and increased plastic pollution. This presentation provides an overview of recent trends in local, regional, national and international strategies and policies to reduce SUPs, and discusses readjustments of these policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thispresentation also discusses strategies that should be included in the new UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) legally binding global agreement to reduce plastic pollution. 

Title: Plastic-i: Enabling solutions to marine plastic pollution with satellite imagery & AI
Authors: James Doherty, Donal Hill, Jack Lidgley, Jamila Mifdal
Biography: James Doherty is a Co-founder and Director of Plastic-i. He has enjoyed an eclectic career discovering exoplanets, practising law, communicating science, directing particles around the Large Hadron Collider, and building a business. He is deeply passionate about protecting our ocean and the vulnerable in society. James has a PhD in Astronomy from the Open University and holds degrees in Law from Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

Award-winning, Innovate UK-backed startup Plastic-i Limited is developing the first commercially available tool for mapping ocean plastic debris. The tool is designed to generate actionable insights that enable the solutions to marine plastic pollution. Insights may be used to define evidence-based policies, plan strategic interventions, and boost clean-up efficiency. The technology can establish a baseline for plastic pollution in a given region, then monitor and quantify change over time. Plastic-i will provide the ideal reporting tool for evidencing compliance with the UN Plastics Treaty.

Plastic-i’s approach leverages the differences in spectral signature of macroplastics relative to water and natural floating debris, making use of multi-spectral instruments such as Sentinel-2 to detect accumulated bodies of floating material. State-of-the-art computer vision algorithms are employed to detect debris accumulations, making use of image segmentation models such as U-Net. Multi-class machine learning classification is subsequently performed using gradient-boosted decision trees, in order to provide plastic probability information on a per-pixel basis within segmented debris structures. All data storage, processing, and statistical analysis pipelines are built using AWS elastic compute cloud services, ensuring the eventual scalability and stability of the product.

Title: Agriplastics and the UK Food Supply Chain: How addressing policy failings and market powers is the ultimate solution
Authors: Lauren Weir1
1. Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
Biography: Lauren Weir is a Senior Campaigner in EIA’s Ocean programme, based in the UK. Lauren joined EIA in 2021 and works on UK and EU plastic policy in addition to EIA’s corporate plastic workstream. She has 8 years of experience working in sustainable development, fisheries management and marine conservation. Lauren has an MSci in Palaeobiology from University College London and an MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The use of plastics in agriculture (‘agriplastics’) only accounts for 3.5 per cent of annual global plastic usage. However, their design, use and the pollution they cause are devastating and extend far beyond farmland.

Agriplastic leakage into the environment causes physical, chemical and biological harm to soil, terrestrial, aquatic and marine life, ecosystems and ultimately – through trophic transfer – human health. A major driver of the environmental impacts of agriplastics is their fundamental lack of recyclability. In the absence of clear routes for disposal and recycling, agriplastics are then mismanaged, being dumped, burnt or illegally exported. As awareness of the issues around agriplastics use are growing, so too is the search for and adoption of alternative biodegradable products or agricultural methods. However, certain solutions are not without their own environmental impacts and these issues must be addressed before widespread uptake occurs to mitigate the sector locking in further harmful production models.

Despite this, addressing the above is relatively absent within policy and grocery retailer sustainability plans, despite both Government and supermarkets having the regulatory and market power responsibility to act.

In this short talk, EIA will present research they have undertaken to demonstrate:

  • The scale of the UK food supply chain and insights into sourcing that impact agriplastic use and pollution
  • How agriplastic pollution is not only absent but worsened as a result of the current global and UK policy landscape
  • How the UK grocery retailer sector is not doing enough to address this, using annual EIA survey data dating back to 2018

In the backdrop of changing weather patterns as a result of Climate Change, trade issues brought on by Brexit, inflation, a cost-of-living crisis, and a global energy and fertiliser price crisis, agricultural plastic use throughout the UK food supply chain is a deeply complex issue. However, continuing to ignore our dependence of plastic in agriculture and placing blame on farmers and growers will result in implications that go far beyond UK farmland or current food security needs.

There is no silver bullet solution, however EIA will also present certain actions that can help to address this, to date, overlooked plastic pollution issue. 

Title: Plastics pollution and youth communities: shaping ownership through adaptive legal tools
Authors: Dr Tiago de Melo Cartaxo1, Dr Noreen O'Meara2, Prof Rosalind Malcolm2
1. University of Exeter
2. University of Surrey
Biography: Tiago de Melo Cartaxo is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter, Law School Cornwall, since 2021. Previously, he was an invited professor in Environmental Law and Administrative Law at NOVA School of Law Lisbon, where he was awarded a European PhD in Law, with a national grant and a Fulbright Scholarship for research at the University of Louisville. He has also received a Higher Education Teaching Certificate from Harvard University. Holding a degree in Law from the University of Lisbon and an LLM in Environmental Law from the University of Coimbra, Tiago has founded and coordinated NOVA Law Green Lab and has been a postdoctoral research assistant at the University of Surrey, working in transcontinental projects on governance and regulation of single-use plastics.

The absence of a sense of collective ownership and responsibility for environmental problems can be especially problematic in the field of pollution. Plastics waste pollution, exacerbated by reliance on single-use plastics, is one such example of a problem marked by a lack of community ownership and responsibility for it. Young people are often habituated to using plastics in daily life without considering the negative impacts of single-use plastics, and/or without access to sustainable alternatives.

This study examines impacts caused by plastics waste pollution in local communities and explores how law and policy can contribute to ownership and sense of responsibility within populations, supporting the objectives of selected SDGs. Having designed intervention tools based on citizen participation, our three case studies in Kenya, Jamaica, and Malawi allow us to evaluate governance tools to support the objective of reducing single-use plastics within schools (Jamaica), youth groups (Kenya) and universities (Malawi).

Building on existing research on plastics ownership and engagement initiatives and case-study results, this paper identifies governance tools that can: (i) build ownership and a sense of responsibility over the problem of plastics waste; (ii) engage citizens; and (iii) drive action to minimise plastics use in local communities. The results are used to compare legal and policy frameworks and to suggest recommendations and guidelines to optimise governance frameworks in the field of single-use plastics. We suggest that community engagement and adaptive legal and policy instruments can contribute to the reduction of the use of plastics and their adverse impacts on the environment and climate change.