Empty used plastic bottles on the shore. [Canva image]

The world is drowning in plastic. In the time it takes to read this, the equivalent of three garbage trucks of plastic pollution will enter the ocean. This is a crisis for people and nature, and one that is only getting worse.

If you came home to find your bathtub overflowing, what’s the first thing you would do? Turn off the faucet, of course.

We need to turn off the faucet when it comes to plastic pollution. This week in Uruguay, the world came together to do just that, as we launched negotiations on a global agreement to combat plastic pollution.  

Plastic has many vital applications in our lives, such as life-saving medical devices and materials that make cars more energy efficient. Our focus is on plastic pollution. We need to take a comprehensive approach to combatting it throughout the lifecycle of plastic.

The Biden Administration views a global agreement as part of our long-term ambition to eliminate the release of plastic into the environment by 2040.  It’s essential that we keep this “North Star” goal in view to help focus our actions.

In Uruguay, we encouraged development of an ambitious, innovative, and country-driven approach to combating plastic pollution throughout its lifecycle.

We believe the agreement should require each country that joins it to develop and regularly update a national action plan for achieving the agreement’s goal. Such plans should set out nationally determined policies and actions across the lifecycle of plastic that are be measurable, fully transparent, and have the force of law behind them.

This country-driven approach should strengthen ambition. And it should foster innovation over time. Let’s avoid the temptation to impose one-size-fits-all measures that drive down our ambition.

Transparency and accountability are essential. The agreement should provide for robust, transparent national reporting that can inform how we measure our collective progress toward the agreement’s objectives.

For countries most in need, we recognize that it will be important to have sufficient support, including capacity building and technical and financial resources.

National governments alone cannot solve the pollution crisis. We need engagement from industry – plastic producers and consumers – conservation and environmental justice groups, science and academia, and individuals if we are to succeed.

We have an opportunity to make a real difference for the next generation and end the scourge of plastic pollution. We are choosing a path to a more sustainable and just world.

And that journey starts now.

U.S. Department of State

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