Story | 09 Dec, 2022

Towards an Agreement on Plastic Pollution: INC-1 took place in Uruguay

The first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022.

The first round of intergovernmental negotiations for the Plastics Treaty (INC-1) took place from 28 November to 2 December in Punta del Este, Uruguay and online. In addition, a dedicated Multi-Stakeholder Forum Day was held on 26 November. IUCN participated actively as a delegation to INC-1, and WCEL was represented by Dr Alexandra R Harrington, Chair of the WCEL Agreement on Plastic Pollution Task Force. Prior to INC-1, the Task Force published 5 policy briefing notes for negotiators, focusing on 1) definitions and key terms for the Treaty, 2) core elements of the Treaty, 3) regime interaction between the Treaty and existing international treaties, 4) potential structures for the Treaty, and 5) the role of the circular economy and plastic lifecycle from a legal perspective. These briefs are available here ( The work of the Task Force was presented in a statement by Head of Delegation Karine Siegwart.

Many of the issues addressed in these briefs, especially regime convergence regarding human rights and trade law as well as multilateral environmental agreements, the need for a robust set of definitions and compliance mechanisms, the cross-cutting legal elements of regulating plastic pollution, and the need to bring innovation to the Treaty’s structure, were taken up at INC-1 and will continue into INC-2. There were no policy-based decisions regarding the contents of the Treaty at the end of INC-1. However, clear distinctions emerged regarding the Treaty’s structure, the contents and requirements of proposed National Action Plans, the need to focus on various aspects of the plastics lifecycle as a first priority, and the ways in which scientific and technical elements are to be merged into the legal and policy elements of the Treaty. At the conclusion of INC-1, it was announced that INC-2 will be a combined plenary and treaty negotiation session to be held in Paris in May 2023. The Task Force is currently working to address questions put to it and to provide additional insights on key areas of the agenda.

About the author:

Alexandra Harrington 1

Dr. Alexandra R. Harrington is a Lecturer in Law (Environment) at Lancaster University Law School and Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Agreement on Plastic Pollution Task Force. She has held two Fulbright terms in Canada at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, focusing on global governance issues, including the 2018 - 2019 Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Global Governance. She is the Director of Studies for the International Law Association of Colombia, International Legal Advisor, University of Silesia Just Transitions Committee, and sits on the editorial boards of multiple academic publications.