Waste Management and Pollution Control

Q and A with Mr Anthony Talouli of SPREP.

29 May 2023, Paris France - According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), our global community faces a plastic pollution crisis.  We produce more than 430 million tonnes of plastic each year, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste, filling the ocean and often working their way into our human and animal food chain.

In 2022, more than 190 Governments agreed to develop an International Legally Binding Instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, through five sessions of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) that began at the end of that same year.  Known as INC-1, the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022.

This week in Paris, France the INC-2 is now underway from 29 May to 2 June for which our Pacific Islands make up the 194 Governments that have a voice in the development of the Plastics Treaty.  Also, to take place in 2023 is the INC-3, with INC-4 and INC-5 to happen across 2024, by the end of which it is expected that a Plastics Treaty will be adopted in 2025 for ratification to bring it into force.

While this is a journey navigated by our Pacific Islands Governments who negotiate in the INC process, the outcomes of this will impact us all.  As such, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) would like to help ensure that as many of our Pacific Islands people know about this Plastics Treaty and are part of this journey, also.

We talk to Mr Anthony Talouli, Director of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Programme of SPREP to learn more about this process.  SPREP is leading support for our Pacific Islands through a wide range of activities that began before the decision was made to form a Plastics Treaty.

Q.  Perhaps to start off, can you please let us know of the work that SPREP has been doing to support our Pacific Islands Members to bring us all up to date as to the groundwork done.

A. “With Plastic Waste as part of our mandate, we have done a number of different things on this journey to help our Pacific Islands address this problem of plastic pollution.  We have been helping our Pacific Islands to get ready to adopt the new Plastics Treaty once it has passed.  What I mean by that is that we are collecting data, supporting the establishment of policies and frameworks, empowering our Pacific Islands to develop National Action Plans, we have helped with establishing financial mechanisms for countries and are also exploring plastic waste treatment systems, shipping of waste overseas and collection.  We are helping our countries prepare for this Legally Binding Instrument.  We are also helping countries by strengthening their strategising for an effective Pacific Voice in the negotiations and we are also working with different partners from around the world.  We’re working together to form alliances where it is important and helpful for our Pacific Islands.”

Q. So what is happening here?  How can we paint a picture so those home in our islands, have a better understanding of what it is that our governments are doing when they attend the INC?

A.  “We are over 190 governments converging to agree upon an agreement that is legally binding which means we must all follow it to address our plastic pollution crisis.  That is a huge feat ahead – ensuring that the asks, concerns and issues for all 194 governments are reflected in this text. 

We do this through a number of different meetings across 2023 and 2024, this week we have one week of meetings.  They start with something we call a plenary – this is when everyone comes together in the same room at the start and then again at the end of the meeting for a stock take of all that happened during the week.  After the first day of plenary, the INC will split into two different contact groups that run parallel to each other, but one will negotiate what it is that we all want in this Legally Binding Agreement, and the other will negotiate what it is that we will do to achieve this.

Essentially that is how the INC is held and this week the Pacific are coordinating themselves to ensure that our voices are heard in all these spaces.

If we cannot do all the work here, or in the five INC’s scheduled then we must work in between the INC’s with something called intersessional meetings.  At this stage we don’t know when, or where, they will be held.  What we do know is that by the end of 2024 we must have a Legally Binding Instrument in place.”

Q.  This may seem like a silly question, but why is this Plastics Treaty important for us in the Pacific?

A.  “We’ll look beyond the statistics and the impacts; we know the problem well.  For us this Plastics Treaty is a given.  We have been saying that we are the Blue Continent, we are the Blue Pacific, we are Oceania and as such we have been doing so much work to protect us from and address the plastic pollution crisis in our Pacific.  While the impact of what we are doing is great and we are doing what we can – we need to work with our global community to do more.  Plastics is a global issue, and we need others to help us reduce the use of virgin plastics, the development and production of plastics and our movement towards the use of alternatives.  We’re already working on management, but we can’t do more than what we are doing now. 

There is also this talk about legacy and colonial waste – colonial waste essentially means that we are at the mercy of someone else when it comes to us buying our products, that is what and where we buy them.  In the waste field, legacy waste is that which is left behind.”


Q. What do you think lies ahead?

A. “I think that we can get this done by 2024.  We must be hopeful; the problem is overwhelming.  We have moved quickly to date – the resolution passed in March 2022 that the world would work together to put a Legally Binding Instrument in place and by the end of 2022 we had completed our first global meeting to make this happen.  I like that we moved fast, but I think the actual test will be the coming into force of the Treaty.  I like the start and build approach taken to date, I think that’s good for helping us to achieve a consensus in two and a half years.

Onwards we go as One Pacific.”

The second Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Paris France from 29 May to 2 June 2023. The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.

 They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University. For more information, visit:

INC2, SPREP, Pacific