Solutions for Plastic Pollution in Small Island Developing States: Global Plastics Summit
8 October 2023
Above: Plastic pollution on a beach in Jamaica – one of the 38 Small Island Developing States
Dr James Clark is a Senior Scientist in our Marine Ecosystems Modelling team, and he has over a decade of experience working on marine plastic pollution.
His early collaborative work on the impact of microplastics on marine invertebrates, and the role these organisms play in redistributing microplastic in the ocean, informed UK legislation banning the use of microplastic beads in wash-off cosmetics.
More recently, he has collaborated with social scientists and economists to study the social cost of plastic, and the conditions under which countries would be incentivised to reduce levels of plastic in the ocean.
Given his experience, earlier this year he was invited to facilitate a working group at the upcoming Global Plastics Summit in Thailand: ‘Small Island Developing States (SIDS): Unique plastics challenges and crafting appropriate solutions.’
The Economist Impact's inaugural Global Plastics Summit 2023 offers a powerful, progressive platform, at a critical juncture in the negotiations—just before the anticipated first treaty draft at INC3—bringing together all stakeholders to fuel momentum and support for the most ambitious treaty possible.
‘The 38 SIDS countries have a unique set of challenges with plastics and plastic waste. They are neither producers of plastic, nor designers of plastic products or packaging, but rather importers and consumers of plastics—with very few options except (overstretched) landfill for disposal of plastic waste. They also experience plastic waste from elsewhere floating on to their shores, legacy plastics, and must clear this up.
As a group, represented by organisations such as AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, they are an influential presence at UN negotiations, if they all speak with one voice. And while there is often broad alignment across the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean SIDS, there can be different emphases on priorities—in plastics, notably, around the importance given to remediation of legacy plastics and to that of reducing plastic production. This working group supports knowledge and capacity building across SIDS around vital questions such as: what does a circular economy for plastics look like in the SIDS context? How will the treaty seek private-sector participation that is meaningful for SIDS, particularly on EPR schemes? How can the treaty catalyse a strategic response to legacy waste? What should a fair and robust financial mechanism look like? In short, what is the treaty going to do for SIDS? The working group also seeks to support the wider SIDS discussions on plastics taking place before and after INC-3.’
Dr Clark commented on the role of the working group and anticipated outcomes:
“One of the goals of the Global Plastics Summit is to create a briefing paper which aggregates outputs from across the working groups and forms a set of recommendations that can then be taken into INC-3 in Nairobi. I am looking forward to working with other attendees on the creation of a set of clear, actionable proposals that help inform UN negotiations on the problem of plastic pollution.”
We will be sharing updates from the Global Plastics Summit later this week, please stay tuned for more through our website and social media channels.