At the same time that we reduce our plastic consumption as individuals and as a congregation, our sisters continue to advocate for system solutions to cut back on plastic production globally. The United Nations is advancing this issue, and we are following their work closely.
Advocating for action at the United Nations
Representing our Congregations of the Sisters of St Joseph Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations (CSJ UN NGO), Sisters Mary Lou Dolan and Patty Johnson virtually attended the International Negotiating Committee, or INC 1, which was held in Uruguay at the end of November. At this meeting, the UN was working to develop a legally binding international treaty on plastic pollution. Sister Patty will attend the next session in-person in Paris to advocate for this treaty, hopefully along with an international delegation of Sisters of St Joseph.
Delegates at the INC 1 were well-prepared and ready to engage in substantive discussions on a broad range of plastic pollution issues. These delegates truly plan to negotiate a treaty within their two-year timeline. It’s important to recognize that this is incredibly fast for the UN to negotiate a treaty.
UN delegates voiced a strong and urgent commitment to address the full lifecycle of plastics from production to manufacturing to the end of the plastic’s useful life. It is clear to the delegates that voluntary commitments will not be enough, thus the need for a legally binding treaty with enforceable standards.
We are following the lead of partners who have expertise on plastic pollution and whose approach is consistent with our values. After consultation with Sister Barbara Bozak, our representative at the CSJ UNNGO, we have begun exploring relationships with the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution (both Chile and Peru belong), the International Alliance of Waste Pickers, the Endocrine Society, and the Small Island Developing States. We can use our voices to amplify theirs.
What we’re advocating for
Many advocates are voicing the need to end plastic pollution by 2040, addressing the full lifecycle of plastics and addressing the hazardous additives to plastics that often have dangerous impacts on human health and the environment. They are calling for international standards for plastic composition that would eliminate hazardous chemicals in plastic and the processes to recycle and reuse plastic. They also are calling for vigorous action to address microplastics and the elimination of problematic plastics through legally binding bans and restrictions.
The Pacific Small Island Developing States called for the remediation of legacy plastics, which have been in our environment since the invention of plastic more than 60 years ago and without action will be there for centuries. Those plastics have floated to their islands after spending enough time in the ocean to make any recycling impossible. They support eliminating single-use plastics (single-use packaging accounts for half of all plastic waste generation) as well as banning problematic or hazardous polymers and other constituent chemicals. They are asking for clear labeling of plastics with no harmful chemicals used in production. This will allow for the safe recycling of plastic at the end of its use.
From our countries
We are especially mindful of reports and actions from delegates of the countries where our sisters and associates live.
Japan testified about their international coalition that strives to prevent plastics from reaching the ocean called the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision. Eighty countries have already signed on to this vision.
Peru prioritized waste management in its opening statement with special emphasis on single-use plastic and microplastics. They too emphasized the importance of transparent labeling of contents in plastics for the safety and health of humans.
The United States urged everyone to continue the Nairobi spirit, where the vision for this treaty was agreed upon. They noted that the world is drowning in plastics and it is time to make changes. As did Japan and many other countries, the United States acknowledged that plastics cannot be eliminated immediately and that they do serve a place in society but that this treaty must set a high bar to eliminate the release of plastics into the environment by 2040.
We have formed a congregational committee that will continue to be engaged in forming our advocacy positions that we will take to the next treaty negotiating sessions. We will share more updates in the future.
Take action with us
We encourage everyone to contact their UN Permanent Representative to urge them to support the Global Plastic Free Treaty.
Those in the United States can use the form below to sign on to a petition that will be sent to the U.S. representative. If you are in Japan, Peru or Chile, use our Japanese– or Spanish-language tools.