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UN global plastic treaty: progress and prayer

As the third round of talks approach, here’s why the UN plastic treaty matters and how you can pray.

Written by Tearfund | 01 Nov 2023

Birds sit atop mountains of rubbish in the Dandora dumpsite, Nairobi.

Mismanaged plastic waste ends up in places like Dandora dumpsite, just a few miles away from the where the third round of plastic treaty negotiations are taking place. Credit: Joseph Limo / Tearfund.

In just a few weeks, thousands of people from across the world and delegates from more than 150 governments will come together for the third round of negotiations on the UN plastics treaty (known as INC-3) in Nairobi, Kenya. The talks – from 13 to 19 November – will see countries begin to make decisions on what should be in the final version of the treaty. What happens at these talks is crucial for people living in poverty who are most affected by plastic pollution.

Why is the UN plastics treaty so important?

Here’s a quick refresher. Until now there has never been a global agreement on how we deal with the world’s mounting rubbish problem. Plastic waste has an enormous impact – not only on the environment – but on billions of us who have no safe way to dispose of it, making people sick, and increasing the risk of flooding. Every 30 seconds someone dies because of diseases caused by mismanaged waste.

Without an agreement to tackle this at a global level, there’s no way to end plastic pollution and its harmful impacts on communities. That’s why we’ve been campaigning through our Rubbish Campaign, alongside Tearfund family members and allies from around the world, to ensure world leaders develop an ambitious, binding treaty that ends plastic pollution.

Campaigner Dr Tiwonge joined Tearfund at the second round of treaty talks in Paris/

Campaigner Dr Tiwonge joined Tearfund at the second round of treaty talks in Paris in May. She’ll be at the summit in Nairobi, highlighting the impact of plastic waste in Malawi. Credit: Adam Aucock / Tearfund.

What progress has been made so far?

The first draft of the treaty – known as ‘zero draft’ – was released after the second round of talks in Paris in May. And there was a lot to be thankful for. Despite the strong push by plastic producers and lobbyists, all of the things we’ve been campaigning for were included.

The draft covers everything from production to final disposal, and the inclusion of waste pickers – the 20 million workers who collect 60 percent of the plastic that gets recycled globally. That’s a testament to the power of Tearfund supporters praying and speaking up together.

But everything is still to play for at the upcoming negotiations in November. There are different options in the draft that delegates must choose between. If the most justice-focussed elements of this draft remain in the final text, the treaty could be life-changing for people living in poverty who are facing the worst harmful impacts of plastic pollution the most. If not then the treaty will fail to improve the lives of people who are suffering right now. 

We need governments to remember how damaging plastic pollution is for communities and commit to taking this seriously, uniting around real, global and mandated targets in the draft, not watering it down, stalling progress and delaying change. And it's vital that we – together with the church around the world – continue to pray and campaign to keep the pressure on. 

Plastic treaty negotiations in Paris, May 2023.

After the last summit, a first draft of the treaty was produced but everything is still up for discussion. Credit: Adam Aucock / Tearfund.

What is the significance of the location for INC-3?

With the third round of treaty negotiations being held in Africa, we need to ensure that the voices of communities across the continent are heard. Campaigners and faith leaders from Kenya and Malawi will be joining Tearfund, and will be lobbying governments and speaking to the media, highlighting the harmful impacts of plastic pollution on their communities.

Plastic waste is three times more likely to be mismanaged in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world, due to overproduction and the lack of access to recycling or waste collections. It’s spiralling out of control.

This mismanaged plastic waste ends up in places like Dandora dumpsite, just a few miles away from the INC-3 negotiation venue, where the equivalent of 30 truckloads of plastic packaging is dumped every day. Communities like those that live and work around Dandora and on the dumpsite itself must have their voices heard in the negotiations.

A dumptruck at Dandora landfill site in Nairobi.

The equivalent of 30 truckloads of plastic packaging is dumped every day in the Dandora landfill site in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Joseph Limo / Tearfund.

Closing the gap

We want to see an ambitious target being agreed on the reduction of plastic production –  a target that sets a common goal and timeframe and which requires every country to take action. We need global action to deliver real change.

It’s also vital the plastics treaty closes the pollution gap for people living in poverty by both reducing how much plastic is being made, and scaling up how much is being collected and recycled. By working at both ends of the crisis, we can close the gap and end the impacts on communities and creation, protecting people's right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

How to keep up to date and pray

During INC-3, from 13 to 19 November, make sure you keep an eye out on social media for updates from the team in Kenya. We’ll be sending urgent requests for prayer on our SMS alerts that week, too and you can sign up to receive Tearfund Action emails for an update from the summit.


Pray with us

    • Pray that countries remain committed to their ambitions and that they will stay focused on justice for those most impacted by plastic pollution.
    • Pray that the voices of African nations will be heard as they speak up for their communities. Ask that the measures they are proposing to protect their communities will find their way into the final treaty.
    • Some countries are seeking to delay negotiations as they want to keep high rates of plastic production. Ask that God will open their eyes to the impacts of plastic pollution and give them a heart for people suffering around the world.

    • Petrochemical and fossil fuel companies are present at the negotiations, sometimes even as part of official country delegations. Pray that God will soften the hearts of these individuals and cause them to see beyond profits and share prices.

    • Pray that those leading the negotiations will provide strong and consistent leadership throughout.

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Written by  Tearfund

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