Hexbyte Glen Cove UN to agree on plan for ‘historic’ plastics treaty

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Plastic has been found in Arctic sea ice, the bellies of whales, and the earth’s atmosphere.

More than 100 nations convening in Nairobi next week are expected to take the first steps toward establishing a historic global treaty to tackle the plastic crisis afflicting the planet.

Plastic has been found in Arctic sea ice, the bellies of whales and Earth’s atmosphere, and governments have been under increasing pressure to unite in action against the global scourge.

Negotiators are hammering out the framework for a legally binding treaty that diplomats say is the most ambitious environmental pact since the 2015 Paris Agreement on .

“This is a big moment. This is one for the history books,” Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), told AFP this week.

The exact scope of the treaty remains to be defined. There are competing proposals being drafted ahead of a three-day UN environment summit starting Monday in Nairobi.

World leaders and environment ministers meeting in-person and virtually are expected to kickstart the treaty process by appointing a negotiating committee to finalise the policy details over the next two years.

But more than 50 countries, along with scientists, businesses and environment groups, have publicly called for tough new regulations on industry to curb the torrent of plastic entering the environment.

This could include caps on the production of new plastic—which is made from oil and gas, and forecast to double by 2040—redesigning products to make recycling easier or less harmful, and phasing out single-use items.

Fishermen sort their catch from a net in plastic-polluted waters in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia.

‘Treaty with teeth’

Many countries, including major plastic producers like the United States and China, have expressed general support for a treaty, but stopped short of endorsing any specific measures.

But there is that countries acting alone cannot fix the problem, and a coordinated global response is needed.

Since the 1950s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than any other material, vastly outpacing national efforts to keep the clean.

Today, approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic waste -– equivalent to the weight of the human population –- are produced every year.

Less than 10 percent is recycled, with most ending up in landfill or the oceans.

By some estimates, a garbage truck’s worth of plastic is dumped in the sea every minute, choking marine life and befouling coastlines around the globe. Microscopic particles of plastic can also enter the , eventually joining the human diet.

Plastic nightmare: A landfill at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

“It is not something that stops at the border. As we know from plastics in the ocean… your trash becomes my trash, and my trash becomes your trash,” said Andersen.

In October, dozens of major corporations including Coca-Cola and Unilever said a plastics treaty with binding targets was “crucial to set a high common standard of action for all countries to abide by.”

Environment groups remain wary and want concrete targets and enforcement mechanisms enshrined in any treaty to ensure accountability.

“We are looking at something that is legally binding and has consequences, and not just a treaty that people can sign onto…. but doesn’t have the teeth to bite back,” said Erastus Ooko from Greenpeace Africa.

‘Ready for change’

Some of the world’s largest plastics manufacturers have also expressed support for a treaty, but say banning certain materials would create supply chain disruptions and hinder improvements to recycling.

Environment groups have warned that plastic giants would try to steer talks in Nairobi away from firm commitments intended to push companies into making less plastic.

Net gains: French company Fil & Fab takes old fishing nets and turns them into nylon granules that are then incorporated in new products.

Two of the proposals adopt a “source to sea” approach: targeting not just trash in oceans and landfill, but also pollution caused by manufacturing new plastic from fossil fuels.

These proposals –- one sponsored by Rwanda and Peru, and the other by Japan -– have broad support and are being merged to reach consensus, said sources with close knowledge of the negotiations in Nairobi.

A third proposal from India -– which called for voluntary measures -– does not have wide support.

“I think the world is ready for a change in the way we relate to plastic,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF.



© 2022 AFP

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UN to agree on plan for ‘historic’ plastics treaty (2022, February 26)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Increasing applied pesticide toxicity threatens bees and marine life thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Increasing applied pesticide toxicity threatens bees and marine life

Hexbyte Glen Cove

In this July 16, 2014, file photo, a bee works on a honeycomb at an apiary in central California. A study published in the journal Science on Thursday, April 1, 2021 finds that farmers in the U.S. are using smaller amounts of better targeted pesticides, but these are harming pollinators, aquatic insects and some plants far more than decades ago. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

American farmers are using smaller amounts of better targeted pesticides, but these are harming pollinators, aquatic insects and some plants far more than decades ago, a new study finds.

Toxicity levels have more than doubled since 2005 for important species, including honeybees, mayflies and buttercup flowers, as the country switched to a new generation of pesticides. But dangerous chemical levels in birds and mammals have plummeted at the same time, according to a paper in Thursday’s journal Science.

“The bottom line is that these pesticides, once believed to be relatively benign and so short-lived that they would not damage ecosystems, are anything but,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator for toxic substances who wasn’t part of the study and is now dean of George Washington University’s school of public health

German scientists examined 381 pesticides used in the United States between 1992 and 2016, combining EPA data that calculates toxic dosage effects for eight types of animals and plants with U.S. Geological Survey data on how much of the chemicals were used year by year for dozens of agricultural crops. The scientists calculated a new measurement they call total applied toxicity for the eight groupings of species and trends over time.

“Very often politicians, media, scientists just talk about amounts. They always argue ‘OK, the amount pesticides we use is reduced so things are getting better’ and this is not necessarily true,” said lead author Ralf Schulz, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Kolenz-Landau. “It’s sometimes true, but not always,”

In this Aug. 4, 2009 file photo, a crop duster sprays a field in Alabama. A study published in the journal Science on Thursday, April 1, 2021 finds that farmers in the U.S. are using smaller amounts of better targeted pesticides, but these are harming pollinators, aquatic insects and some plants far more than decades ago. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

Industry keeps developing new pesticides and “very often these new compounds are more toxic,” Schulz said. They include neonicotinoids, which have been connected to one of the many causes of dwindling honeybee numbers.

The newer pesticides are aimed more toward animals without backbones to spare birds and mammals, but this means insects such as pollinators get poisoned, Schulz said.

The same goes for some land plants and for aquatic invertebrates including dragonflies and mayflies, which birds and mammals eat, he said, adding that future studies should look at the harm higher up the food chain.

Chris Novak, president of the pesticide industry group CropLife America, said in an email that “it is critical to note that the study found great reductions in acute toxicity have been achieved for humans and mammals over the past few decades.”

Novak noted pesticides go through extensive studies and “only one in 10,000 discoveries make the 11-year journey from the lab to the market.”

It’s not surprising that newer generations of pesticides generally are more harmful to insects, which are undergoing a massive decline for many reasons, said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, who wasn’t part of the study. But Wagner said this newest research doesn’t provide data needed to show “that pesticides are the major driver of insect declines.”



More information:
R. Schulz el al., “Applied pesticide toxicity shifts toward plants and invertebrates, even in GM crops,” Science (2021). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.abe1148

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Citation:
Study: US pesticide use falls but harms pollinators more (2021, April 1)
retrieved 1 April 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-pesticide-toxicity-threatens-bees-marine.html

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part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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