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Today, a group of activists dressed as lifeguards issued a safety notice at the UN plastics treaty negotiations in Paris: a new report from the international relief and development agency found plastic pollution puts more than 200 million people at greater risk of flooding.

Campaigners joined Tearfund to warn of the impact of plastic pollution on poor urban communities and call for the treaty to rapidly reduce plastic production and scale up waste management and recycling.

The safety warning follows new research from Tearfund and Resource Futures, that found over 200 million people are at significant risk of more severe and frequent flooding due to plastic pollution.

This type of pollution blocks waterways and drains and can lead to severe health impacts like cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.

Tearfund partner and campaigner Dr Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa, from Malawi, who is at the negotiations in Paris, said: “The world is drowning in plastic pollution. In Malawi plastic pollution is blocking drains and waterways.

“During Cyclone Freddy earlier this year, blocked waterways and drains increased the impacts of the storm, causing more damages to our communities. World leaders must take notice of this reality and deliver justice for those who are experiencing the worst effects.”

Rich Gower, senior economist and policy associate at Tearfund, added, “As climate change makes rainfall events more intense, plastic pollution is blocking drains and waterways in poor urban areas, increasing the danger of flooding for communities, especially in South Asia, East Asia and Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa.

“The new research from Tearfund and Resource Futures shows that flooding carries serious health risks for people living in poverty, including cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.

“The treaty must provide solutions for the 218 million people around the world at risk of more severe and frequent flooding due to plastic pollution, and governments must commit to prioritise the interests of people in poverty.”

Tearfund is at the treaty negotiations in Paris calling on world leaders to use their position in these negotiations to push for a plastics treaty that fully addresses the impacts of waste on people living in poverty, by ensuring four things are included in the final agreement:

  • 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

Seen as the most important international environmental agreement since the Paris Climate deal, the global treaty could be the first legally-binding global agreement on plastic pollution, and could both reduce production of plastics and ensure waste is collected and recycled.

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For further information or interview requests call Royston Rodrigues on 07591 835 763 or email [email protected] or for out-of- hours media enquiries please call the Tearfund media team on 07929 339813.

Photo caption- Plastic pollution campaigners dressed as lifeguards issuing a safety notice to the governments negotiating on the plastics treaty.

Tearfund released a new report last week which revealed plastic pollution increases flooding risk for more than 200 million of the world’s poorest people.

Photo stunt took place outside the UNESCO building at 10am (Paris time) on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

Notes to editors:

To view the report log onto

The report was produced by Resource Futures and peer-reviewed by Guy Norman of Urban Research.

Resource Futures are experts in waste and resource management, circular economy and plastic-related policy development and analysis. Our global policy team works with international agencies, governments and NGOs to develop waste and resource management systems that protect the environment and positively contribute to livelihoods and local economies.

Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries. They tackle poverty through sustainable development, responding to disasters and challenging injustice. Tearfund believes 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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