"Plastic, Plastic Everywhere — Even at the UN’s “Plastic Free” Conference"

"At a conference meant to address the plastic crisis, pro-plastic messaging was inescapable. Meanwhile, industry insiders — some positioned as government delegates — were given access to vital negotiations."

"When I registered to attend last month’s United Nations conference in Canada, organizers insisted it would be a “plastic free meeting.” I wouldn’t even get a see-through sleeve for my name tag, they warned; I’d have to reuse an old lanyard.

After all, representatives from roughly 170 countries were gathering to tackle a crisis: The world churns out 400 million metric tons of plastic a year. It clogs landfills and oceans; its chemical trail seeps into our bodies. Delegates have been meeting since 2022 as part of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution in hopes of ending this year with a treaty that addresses “the full life cycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal.”

The challenge before delegates seemed daunting: How do you get hundreds of negotiators to agree on anything via live, group editing? Especially when representatives from fossil fuel and chemical companies would be vigorously working to shift the conversation away from what scientists say is the only solution to the crisis: curbing plastic production.

But when I got to the meeting, I discovered those industry reps were not the sideshow; they were welcomed into the main event.

They could watch closed-door sessions off limits to reporters. Some got high-level badges indistinguishable from those worn by country representatives negotiating the treaty. These badges allowed them access to exclusive discussions not open to some of the world’s leading health scientists."

Lisa Song reports for ProPublica May 10, 2024.

Source: ProPublica, 05/13/2024