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A Voice for our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy Response to Plastics Treaty Zero Draft

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) released the highly anticipated zero draft of the international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, widely known as the “global plastics treaty.” The agreement aims to curb the global plastic pollution crisis, of which the ocean often bears the brunt. As a UN-accredited observer organization, Ocean Conservancy has played an active role in shaping the ILBI to ensure it prevents and protects the ocean from plastic pollution.

“Ocean Conservancy is pleased to see that our five key priorities and several of our policy recommendations were included in the plastics treaty draft text. However, if the UN and the world are serious about confronting the plastics pollution crisis, we must ensure that the strongest provisions are adopted. To do so, the final text must set globally binding targets to reduce plastics production; prevent plastic fishing and aquaculture gear from being lost in the first place; ensure a fair, equitable, and inclusive transition for the informal waste sector; and support robust and transparent national action plans that require reporting on how the goals are being met,” said Nicholas Mallos, Ocean Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation, Ocean Plastics. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to right the ship and chart a course towards a future where we aren’t drowning in plastics – the health of our ocean and our lives depend on it.”

The zero draft is critical to the plastics treaty drafting process because now member states have a text upon which to base their discussions. The zero-draft outlines the options, scope, structure, control measures, and other items to be discussed during the in-person negotiations.

From November 13-19, the United Nations will host the third formal round of negotiations (INC-3) for an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution in Nairobi, Kenya.

Below is a breakdown of how the ILBI zero draft addresses Ocean Conservancy’s five key priorities

Plastics Source Reduction –

Zero draft: The text currently includes the option for consideration of a plastic production reduction target by 2040 but without specifying a percentage.

Our recommendations: Ocean Conservancy urges the incorporation of specific global binding targets, such as a minimum 50% reduction in single-use plastics production by 2050. We encourage negotiators to explore options that either restrict or prohibit the production, manufacture, sale, distribution, import, or export of certain plastic products except under specific and registered exemptions. We also recommend the removal of subsidies and other fiscal incentives that support plastic production.

Microplastics –

Zero draft: The text supports eliminating intentionally manufactured or added microplastics (such as microbeads in cosmetics), with room for exceptions and less restrictive options.

Our recommendations: Ocean Conservancy recommends the option to not allow the production, use, sale, distribution, import or export of plastics and products containing intentionally added microplastics. The zero draft should more specifically address, regulate, and remediate secondary microplastics which are microplastics created from larger plastic items breaking down into small pieces. Secondary microplastics represent the vast majority of microplastics in the ocean and environment.

Plastic Fishing Gear and Aquaculture –

Zero draft: Plastic fishing gear and aquaculture gear are only included under the section on waste management as it relates to marking, tracing, and reporting abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) already in the environment.

Our recommendations: We urge negotiators to include plastic fishing and aquaculture gear as a separate category in “Part II,” in addition to being addressed in other parts of the text. This separate category should include provisions to not only track and clean it up once already in the environment but also measures that prevent it from being lost or abandoned in the first place. This encompasses interventions across the full gear lifecycle, such as gear design standards (including traceability and labeling); gear marking; extended producer responsibility; and remediation.

Design for Circularity –

Zero draft: The text includes measures that promote the reduction, reuse, refill, and repair of plastics through product design, composition, and performance standards.

Our recommendations: Ocean Conservancy supports requiring plastic products to meet minimum performance criteria, including requirements to eliminate hazardous substances used in the production of plastics which have been shown to impact human health and chemicals that make them less recyclable. Ocean Conservancy also encourages adding a list of waste management practices that need to be regulated or prohibited, such as current technologies on chemical recycling, because they may lead to the emissions and release of hazardous substances.

Informal Sector Waste Collectors –

Zero draft: The draft text includes a section titled “just transition” which outlines the importance of ensuring a fair, equitable, and inclusive transition for affected populations and the informal sector, with special consideration for women, vulnerable groups, children, youth, and indigenous communities, and includes improving working conditions and the livelihoods of those in the informal waste collection sector.

Our recommendations: Ocean Conservancy recommends that negotiators ensure these populations are consulted and included in the formulation of their responses to the zero-draft. In addition, we recommend reviewing Ocean Conservancy’s ten principles outlined in its August 15th submission to the Secretariat.

The full ILBI zero draft text can be found HERE.

A fact sheet detailing Ocean Conservancy’s ILBI priorities can be found HERE.

A fact sheet about ocean plastic pollution can be found HERE

A fact sheet about microplastics can be found HERE.





Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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