Merkley, Warren, Wyden, Sanders urge ambitious action to combat plastic pollution

Merkley, Warren, Wyden, Sanders urge ambitious action to combat plastic pollution

Oregon's U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken ahead of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC)'s first session taking place this week.

The Senators’ letter highlights the clear and present threat plastic pollution poses to public health, national security, and the future of the planet, and calls for an ambitious approach to the negotiations and bold leadership from the United States.

"Without immediate, bold action, it is a threat that will only continue to grow," wrote the senators. "[The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee's first session] is a unique opportunity for people all across the globe to work together towards a shared goal of protecting our planet on behalf of future generations."

The senators note how this first session of negotiations will set the stage for future discussions, with many nations looking to the United States for leadership to combat this global plastics crisis, and will spotlight the importance of reducing plastic pollution at the source. The Senators write that with strong U.S. leadership and interest in plastic pollution, more countries will be pushed and encouraged to enact similar stances in their own countries.

The senators highlight the crucial need for a global agreement in order to effectively and efficiently combat the plastic pollution crisis, including supporting better working conditions for waste pickers and environmental justice throughout the plastics lifecycle.

The senators urge the administration to show leadership and ambition during the first session of the INC by supporting the following goals for the legally binding instrument:

  • Promote the development and implementation of national action plans that include robust metrics and targets for source reduction as well as waste management, pollution prevention, and clean up;
  • Advocate for circular economy principles, including better product design and support for recycling, and ensure chemical recycling technologies that harm communities and do not perpetuate a circular economy are not part of the agreement;
  • Advocate for the inclusion of the most harmful types of plastic pollution in the discussions, including "ghost gear" and microplastics;
  • Encourage negotiators to discuss the role of plastics in climate commitments;
  • Elevate the importance of the informal sector and other marginalized groups in the process and agreement;
  • Advocate for robust financial support and technical capacity to ensure all countries can undertake ambitious strategies.