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India opposes the cap on the production of polymers in the Zero Draft policy on plastic pollution

20 Nov 2023 14:44 IST
India opposed the cap on the production of polymers in the Zero Draft policy on plastic pollution, which was proposed earlier by select countries in the third meeting of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC3) held in Nairobi, Kenya, last week. The 175 signatories of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment, congregated between November 13 and 19, 2023, to adopt the Zero Draft policy which was prepared after almost a year of deliberations. The objective of this meeting was to eradicate plastic pollution and provide a cleaner earth for the next generation.

Exercising the ‘Right to Intervention’, India submitted a proposal to amend the existing Zero Draft policy on plastic pollution. India’s amendment proposal reads, “It needs no over-emphasis that plastics are useful materials and that the INC should address the pollution caused by plastic, which needs to be addressed. Accordingly, there must be no binding targets/ cap on the production of plastic polymers.”

India supported the objective of the Zero Draft policy to meet the goal of ending plastic pollution. It is important to ensure sustainable production and consumption rather than setting targets for production or regulating primary producers.

The global plastic fact file



Present annual production

460 million tonnes

OECD’s projections

Plastic waste to triple by 2060

Half of the waste volume

To enter landfills by 2060

The present successful recycling rate


Current annual volume entering oceans

14 million tonnes

UNEP convening meeting

13-19 November 2023



31 pages Zero Draft prepared on

September 4, 2023

No of the participating countries


Objective of the meeting

To adopt resolutions to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, and to protect human health and the environment

Source: United Nations; OECD = Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; UNEP = United Nations Environment Programme

However, coverage of substances, materials, and products, as required, must be related to addressing plastic pollution. India further reiterated that the scope of negotiations on the Zero Draft to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution is of utmost importance. This could include both binding and voluntary approaches and must be in line with the UNEA resolution that its members have already adopted in the first and the second UNEA meetings earlier.

The Zero Draft policy, an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, outlines action plans for the participating members, including both developed and developing nations. The Zero Draft was presented for adoption in this meeting and discussed to identify the challenges faced by member countries in reducing plastic pollution and ways to address this issue. The Committee, under the leadership of the Executive Director of the UPEP, began working on the Zero Draft policy in the second half of 2022 with the goal of completing its work by the end of 2024.

Drafted to be legally binding on member countries, the Zero Draft includes both mandatory and voluntary approaches. It is based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire life cycle of plastic, taking into account national circumstances and capabilities. The primary objective of this instrument is to put an end to plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, and to protect human health and the environment.

Avoiding arbitrary discrimination
India called on the participating members to avoid laying emphasis on the trade policy measures for constituting a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of importing county should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.

The legally binding instrument should address plastic pollution, by addressing the availability, accessibility, and affordability of alternatives including cost implications, and by specifying arrangements for capacity-building and technical assistance, technology transfer, and financial assistance. It is important to note that plastic pollution lies with unmanaged and littered waste which gets leaked into the environment and causes adverse impacts on human well-being and the environment.

The obligations under the instrument shall be directly linked with the availability of adequate and predictable financial and technical resources for developing countries and should be made part of substantive provisions. India also opposed binding targets or phasing out of the production of plastic polymers.

However, India favoured listing out the provisions wherein the focus is on the promotion of Sustainable Consumption and Production through among other things, product design and environmental management including Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy approaches. Participants stressed the need to focus on such aspects that do not need plastic ending as a pollutant by taking actions that promote reuse, recyclability, and use of recycled content.

Plastic and the economy
India stressed that the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is linked with the production and consumption of plastic. For the developed economies, per capita consumption of plastics in select countries is more than 100 kgs which is much above the global average of 35 kgs. India’s per capita consumption of plastic is only 14 kgs.

It is recognised that developing countries mostly have the production and consumption of plastics to meet their basic needs and therefore is subsistence in nature. India proposed the formation of the basis of plastic waste management-related provisions in the proposed instrument that is being deliberated to finalize the biding and voluntary Zero Draft policy of the UNEA signatories.

Prompt actions
The Draft emphasizes the need to take immediate action to end plastic pollution by 2040 through the prevention, progressive reduction, and elimination of plastic pollution throughout the life cycle of plastic. It also underscores the importance of managing both plastic utilization and its waste, contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. According to the Draft, all countries must take necessary measures to prevent and mitigate the potential for adverse impacts on human health or the environment arising from the production of primary plastic polymers, including their feedstocks and precursors.

For problematic and avoidable plastic products, including short-lived and single-use plastic products and internationally added micro-plastics, the Zero Draft recommends that every participating country should not allow the production, sale, distribution, import, or export of these plastic products. In fact, several countries, including India, have already intensified efforts to reduce avoidable plastic products and ban single-use plastics below a certain level of thickness. Additionally, several countries have implemented extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws to establish accountability throughout the value chain for the production, sale, distribution, and consumption of plastic products.

The plastic menace
The global plastic production is estimated to have doubled to approximately 460 million tonnes between 2000 and 2019. The expansion of innovative applications has quadrupled global plastic consumption over the past 30 years, with a significant portion of this growth originating from emerging markets. Plastic accounts for approximately 3.4 percent of global greenhouse emissions. The global plastic market size was valued at around US$609 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 percent from 2023 to 2030.

The increasing consumption of plastic in the construction, automotive, electrical, and electronics industries is projected to support the growth. The varying life cycle of each plastic product requires continuous end-of-life disposal. Given this, global plastic waste generation is estimated to have doubled to 353 million tonnes between 2000 and 2019. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projects that the amount of plastic waste will almost triple by 2060, with approximately half of it ending up in landfills. According to estimates, only nine percent of plastic waste is successfully recycled at present, and 14 million tonnes end up in the world’s oceans every year.