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Campaigners stage global protests over plastic pollution

Christian campaigners across the globe are joining together with one voice to call on world leaders to ensure the world’s first ever plastics treaty ends plastic pollution and fully addresses the impacts on people living in poverty

01 Mar 2023

Campaigners outside Houses of Parliament

Campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament on March 1st

Today, Christian campaigners across the globe are joining together with one voice to call on world leaders to ensure the world’s first ever plastics treaty ends plastic pollution and fully addresses the impacts on people living in poverty.

Globally, 2 billion people – one in four of us – have no safe way to dispose of rubbish, meaning many are forced to live and work among piles of waste.

This is making people sick, releasing toxic fumes, flooding communities and causing up to a million deaths each year – that’s one person dying every 30 seconds.

Laura Young, Tearfund ambassador and waste campaigner said: “This is a historic opportunity to help people living in poverty. The reality is that plastic pollution kills, and this is being experienced first and hardest by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, who are most exposed to the toxic burning and dumping of rubbish.

“What's more, the people doing the most to address this crisis - the 20 million people working as waste pickers - are often mistreated and underpaid. This is a huge injustice, especially given it’s them who collect 60% of the plastics that are recycled globally.”

Tearfund’s new campaign launches today on International Wastepickers Day. Waste pickers are informal workers who in many countries are doing the most to address plastic pollution: collecting plastic and other recyclables door to door, from the street, or from dumpsites.  However, they often do so for little pay, work in dangerous conditions, and suffer stigma and discrimination.

Tearfund is calling for this treaty to fully address the impacts of plastic pollution on those living in poverty by implementing-

  • Reduction: legally binding targets to reduce plastic production and scale up reuse solutions
  • Recycling: universal access to waste collection and recycling
  • Respect: support for waste pickers, including a just transition
  • Response: mechanisms to ensure businesses and governments take action

Tearfund is also calling on the UK government to help secure the recognition waste pickers deserve, fair pay, protections and also a just transition as part of the global treaty. 

Maditlhare Koena, who works as a waste picker in South Africa and represents the International Alliance of Waste Pickers at the UN treaty negotiations, said: “It’s vitally important that waste pickers are part of the treaty policy making process and that our voices are heard. As a mother and grandmother I began waste picking and selling recyclables to ensure we had meals on our table. I have brought women waste pickers together where I live so that we can have a stronger voice as one. A strong treaty must provide and guarantee better and decent work, social protection, more training opportunities and greater job security for workers,”

Tearfund works in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries, and every day, our partners witness the effects of plastic being dumped or burnt in backyards, on street corners and in open dumps.

In Malawi, Tearfund is working alongside the Malawi Creation Care Network (MCCN) which has been campaigning on plastic pollution since 2018 and now the country is fighting a cholera outbreak where over 1000 people have died. 

"We have been fighting in the courts and won a ban on thin plastic bags in 2019, but companies have taken out an injunction on this. All you need to do is look at our cities, they are covered in plastics and they are blocking the drains, contributing to this cholera outbreak. Because of this, people are dying, we desperately need a global tool like the treaty to get plastic pollution under control,” Aaron Lewani, Tearfund project manager and campaigner in Malawi, added.

Please add your voice to our campaign by logging onto to sign our petition. 


For further information or interview requests call Melissa Barnston on 07378 326 462/ [email protected] or for out of hours media enquiries please call 07929 339813.

Photocall: Tearfund campaigners will create a mound of rubbish effect with giant cardboard cutouts saying ‘Plastic pollution kills’ outside Westminster calling on UK politicians to ensure a strong plastics treaty.

Location: Victoria Tower Gardens, Abingdon Street, Millbank, London SW1P 3JA

We will be located at the end of the gardens nearest to the Houses of Parliament, on the small section of the grass area between Buxton Memorial Fountain and Burghers of Calais statue.

Time: 9am Wednesday March 1 2023

Notes to editors

Background on the treaty

On 2 March 2022, at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) in Nairobi, a resolution was passed by UN member states giving the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the mandate to convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument (treaty) on plastic pollution with the aim of completing this work by the end of 2024 when the treaty will be ready for ratification. The first session of the INC, known as INC-1, took place from 28 November to 2 December 2022 in Uruguay, where more than 1,400 in-person and virtual delegates from 147 countries took part in the meeting, which set the foundations to shape the global agreement. Four further INC sessions are planned for 2023 and 2024, with the second session taking place in May 2023 in Paris. These sessions will see governments work out the content and logistics of the plastic treaty, in order to develop and adopt a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

About Tearfund

Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries. We tackle poverty through sustainable development, responding to disasters and challenging injustice. We believe an end to extreme poverty is possible. Tearfund is also a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit

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